While many people know that liposuction is used to remove localized areas of fat, some are unaware that there are different techniques for removing the fat. Over the years, liposuction has evolved into a safer procedure with less risks and complications. Originally, liposuction started out as a dry technique but surgeons soon discovered benefits associated with various degrees of wetness. When consulting with a cosmetic surgeon, patients should ask which technique they use as it could mean the difference between a successful procedure and failure in the eye of the patients.
What’s the Difference?
Dry liposuction, also referred to as traditional liposuction, is derived from the original suction-assisted lipectomy procedure. However, it is rarely used these days. Since the procedure can be time consuming and painful, the patient is placed under general anesthesia. Lengthy treatments possess a higher risk for infection and procedures which require general anesthesia also have additional risks.
During dry lipo, an incision is made within the treatment area and a standard cannula is inserted. The surgeon moves the cannula aggressively in a push and pull manner in order to break up the fatty tissue. Meanwhile, a high pressure vacuum is used to suction out the fat. The procedure can be physically exhausting for the surgeon so there is the possible risk of nerve damage and organ destruction. In addition, dry liposuction causes extensive damage to tissues and can result in tissue death because the blood vessels, which supply the skin with good cells, become damaged.
The biggest risk with dry liposuction is excessive blood loss which can necessitate a blood transfusion. Excessive blood loss can cause the patient to go into shock and the results could be fatal. Heavy bruising, excessive swelling, weakness from blood loss and a substantial amount of pain are also common side effects of traditional liposuction. Recovery can take months and often leaves the patient unsatisfied with the results due to the fact that the method is not very precise.
On the other hand, wet liposuction uses a solution of saline, lidocaine and epinephrine which is then injected into the treatment area prior to fat removal. This makes the overall fat extraction smoother and more efficient.
The patient is still placed under general anesthesia but the lidocaine in the solution helps to numb the area during treatment. In addition to comfort, the epinephrine within the solution helps to constrict the blood vessels and minimize blood loss during the procedure. Even though this technique is less traumatic to the body than the traditional method, many patients still suffer significant blood loss due to the limited amount of solution used. On average, approximately 15-20% of the tissue removed is actually the patient’s blood. Therefore, wet liposuction is also seldom performed.
Wet Liposuction Types
Due to more testing and advanced techniques, wet liposuction was modified into different degrees of wetness which can be administered during liposuction. The two most common techniques are:
- Super Wet – In this technique, the surgeon will inject an amount of solution which is close to the same amount of fat to be removed. The fluid helps to break down the fat for easy removal. This method causes less overall trauma to the tissue than the standard wet technique. Super wet is slightly less risky than tumescent lipo due to the fact that less lidocaine is used. Too much lidocaine can cause toxicity within the body that can result in complications or even death.
- Tumescent – This method involves the surgeon injecting a large amount of solution into the treatment area. In general, the solution is two or three times the amount of fat that is designated for removal. Tumescence is a medical term for swelling and the amount of fluid injected causes the treated area to become distended with fluid. The abundance of fluid creates additional room between the skin and the subcutaneous tissue. Therefore, the cannula can separate the fat cells easier with fewer traumas to the body.
The downtime and recovery period for either of the above techniques can take as little as two to four weeks. The total recovery time depends on how much liposuction was performed and if general anesthesia was used. In many cases, super wet and tumescent liposuction can be performed under local anesthesia. Without the use of general anesthesia, the risks and complications are lower for the patient. In general, some of the risks include bruising, bleeding, infection, seroma, temporary loss of sensation in the treated area and scarring. Some patients may experience asymmetry or irregularities. Choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon that specializes in the various techniques of liposuction can lessen the complications for patients.