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Battle Royale: Laser Liposuction vs. Traditional Liposuction

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Originally published May 25, 2016. Last updated January 26, 2024.

Liposuction, also referred to as suction-assisted lipectomy (SAL), is a process where a surgeon contours the shape of your body and addresses the areas resistant to exercise and diet. Patients who choose to have this procedure usually have a body weight that is stable, but are looking to remove specific body fat deposits in certain areas of their body. Liposuction isn’t intended to be a treatment for obesity or an overall weight-loss treatment. It doesn’t remove dimples, cellulite or stretch marks. Here’s what it targets:

  • Outer thighs (saddlebags)
  • Inner thighs
  • Hips
  • Legs
  • Back
  • Abdomen
  • Flanks (love handles)
  • Buttocks
  • Upper arms

While these are some of the primary areas liposuction is performed, it is also performed on the cheeks, women’s breasts, men’s breasts, inner and outer knees, calves and chin.

The overall goal of the treatment is aesthetic, in that you’re looking to enhance or change the contour of your body. The procedure alters your body’s shape. However, if you don’t lead a healthy lifestyle following the procedure, you risk having the remaining fat cells grow bigger.

Popularity of Liposuction

Today, liposuction is one of the most commonly performed cosmetic procedures in the United States. According to the Society of Plastic Surgeons, as of 2014, liposuction came third place in cosmetic surgical procedure options, with a 5% increase over the previous year. Since then, it has grown up to 16%, with more than 390,000 treatments performed, according to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.

The History of Liposuction

Liposuction, often abbreviated as lipo, was invented by a couple of Italian-American surgeons in 1974: Doctors Arpad and Giorgio Fischer. However, the procedure was first introduced in the 1920s when a French surgeon, Dr. Dujarier, performed a fat removal treatment in 1926 on a model. A more modern liposuction was presented by a French surgeon, Dr. Yves-Gerard Illouz, in 1982.

Main Overview and Differences between Traditional Liposuction and Laser Liposuction

Today, individuals have a choice between traditional liposuction and laser liposuction. Learning about the process, benefits and differences of each will help you make an educated decision between these two body-contouring methods.

Traditional Liposuction

Basically, traditional liposuction is the removal of unwanted fat deposits by suction from under the skin. The surgeon sculpts and contours your body, removing those extra fat deposits that you can’t seem to get rid of through exercise and diet. This fat is removed permanently from underneath your skin using a special suction device.

This procedure is very popular in the United States, and there are a variety of choices when it comes to the treatment. It uses cannulas (hollow metal tubes) for removing your fat from specific areas of your body where it’s confined to fatty deposits.

Although this treatment is effective in areas of your body where there is less fibrous tissue, there are other energy-based and power-assisted ultrasonic liposuction treatments that could provide you with better outcomes in those areas that are more fibrous, such as your posterior waist, upper abdomen and bra rolls.

Laser Liposuction

This liposuction laser treatment, also referred to as Smartlipo, is a fairly new technique where the doctor removes your excess fat and tightens your skin in certain areas using a laser first that liquefies the fat to be removed afterwards with smaller liposuction cannulas. The small laser actually melts your fat, which makes it easier for the doctor to remove it afterwards with a small suction cannula. In this way, it is similar to the methods of traditional liposuction.

This laser fat removal treatment uses laser energy that’s delivered to your tissues with a laser fiber to break up your fat cells. Many surgeons believe this laser liposuction treatment provides you with the added benefit of tightening up loose skin slightly with results that are better than traditional techniques.

Laser Liposuction vs. Traditional Liposuction — Other Key Differences

Besides the methods used to carry out these procedures, other key differences between traditional lipo and laser-assisted lipo include the suitable body areas, incision size, type of anesthesia used, the results and the ultimate recovery.

Suitable Body Areas

With traditional liposuction, the areas best suited for treatment include the hips, thighs, stomach and love handles. On the other hand, with Smartlipo, you have a broader range of treatment options for removing stubborn fat, including the knees, arms, bra rolls, upper abdomen, chin and other sensitive areas.

Size of the Incision

The main incision differences between Smartlipo vs. liposuction are the size, number, and whether sutures are needed for the treatments.

Size and Sutures

With laser fat removal, only tiny incisions (1/4 inch or less) are needed, and no sutures are required afterwards. The surgeon has to make larger incisions and use sutures with traditional liposuction.

With laser lipolysis treatments, again, the size of the incision is significantly smaller, since the doctor breaks down the fat deposits with a precise laser beam instead of using his hands. Bleeding and bruising are reduced, and you can have your excess fat removed in a less aggressive manner with smaller instruments.

Number of Incisions

Traditional lipo requires not only larger incisions, but also multiple incisions in some cases, depending on the surface and location area. The surgeon dislodges the fat cells through the large incision and removes them using a syringe-assisted suction tool. The instrument used is quite large — therefore, the incisions need to be large enough to accommodate it.

The surgeon then takes the cannula and scrapes the fat from between your muscle and skin using a jabbing motion, and then suctions away the scraped fat from your body. In many cases, this procedure requires large quantities of IV fluid to replace your lost body fluid. You could be left with a dimpling or rippling appearance after the procedure because of the tool used to scrape the fat from your skin. Also, it can be hard to control how evenly the fat is removed using this scraping tool. With Smartlipo the results are usually much smoother because the fat is melted (liquefied) with the help of a laser before suctioning.

Types of Anesthesia (General vs. Local)

General anesthesia is used in traditional liposuction. It is generally administered through an IV, which puts you in a ‘sleeping’ state. With this particular type of anesthesia, the procedure is typically performed in a surgery center or hospital, since an anesthesiologist is needed.

The laser liposuction procedure calls for only a local anesthetic, and is believed to be less traumatic and more conducive to faster recovery times. You are typically conscious during the procedure, since it’s done under local anesthesia only. This also avoids the significant risk that comes with general anesthesia.


You get a greater level of skin tightening with laser lipo as opposed to traditional lipo. In addition, patients who undergo traditional liposuction procedures often are left with large amounts of excess skin. With Smartlipo, however, the treatment helps to tighten and smooth the skin in the treatment area for a more natural look.

With Smartlipo, the energy laser beams penetrate into your skin and heat up the deepest structures and stimulate new elastin growth and collagen production in your skin, creating a better overall skin appearance and function. Plus, this continues to improve over time.

In the liposuction vs smartlipo comparison, you’re left with bruising and swelling to a much bigger extend with traditional lipo, compared to laser liposuction (smartlipo). Although you do see some immediate results with the older procedure, you not only see immediate results with the laser procedure, but you also see improved changes over several months as your elastin and collagen escalate to smooth your skin out.

Laser lipo fat removal makes your fat easier to suction, so that the doctor only needs to create small incisions to vacuum it out. Basically, the incisions made with Smartlipo are much smaller than those used in traditional liposuction. Because of this, the procedure is less invasive and you have a smaller risk of ending up with visible scars. Another distinction between the two treatments is that in the old procedure, the vacuuming process is much rougher than it is with the laser lipo treatment.

Your doctor not only softens the fat in the specific area of treatment to make removal easier, but the laser energy heats up your skin cells and stimulates collagen production. This collagen is the primary structural protein that is found in your skin, but as you age, its production slows down. Since laser energy helps promote collagen production, it not only removes fat effectively, but also improves the appearance of your skin with less nodes and bumps.


Recovery time with Smartlipo is much quicker than with the older methods of liposuction. This enables you to get back to doing your daily activities faster. By combining a gentler fat removal method with a local anesthetic, you experience a more expedient and comfortable recovery. In many cases, you can get back on your feet in just a few short days.

With the older procedures, it can take weeks to recover, and you are left feeling uncomfortable for days to weeks afterward. Busy and working people tend to prefer procedures that require less downtime.

Benefits of Laser Lipo

There are many advantages of the laser lipo fat removal procedure over traditional lipo, including:

  • Smaller incisions
  • Lowered risk of scarring and infection
  • Fat is liquefied in your body
  • Higher efficiency with laser
  • Less visible swelling and bruising
  • Minimal downtime and shorter recovery time
  • No stitches needed
  • No general anesthesia needed
  • Smaller cannula
  • No need to stay in hospital

The benefits of the laser body shaping method are pretty clear.

Different Laser Technology Services

At our state-of-the-art facility, Synergy Wellness Center, we offer the top five body shaping/fat reduction procedures: Smartlipo, Precision TX, iLipo, Cellulaze and BodyFX.


Introduced by Cynosure, Smartlipo is where laser liposuction began. It offers you a high-quality laser lipolysis procedure that greatly improves on the older methods of traditional liposuction. It uses a temperature-controlled cannula and laser energy to reduce recovery times significantly. Your unwanted fat is eliminated quickly, and you experience very little discomfort during the process, since it dissolves fat cells and makes them simpler to be removed by the cannula.

Additionally, it heats your skin, which gently triggers instant collagen growth and healing and leads to more desirable and smoother results than what you would normally get from other types of procedures. Smartlipo can be used for just about any area of your body including your:

  • Arms
  • Thighs
  • Chin
  • Neck
  • Abdomen
  • Back

The Smartlipo product portfolio and its performance is driven by over nine years of evidence-based scientific data and clinical studies. It has also been cleared by the FDA as a laser-assisted Lipolysis procedure.

Most patients require only one laser lipolysis treatment, lasting 45 minutes to two hours, for each treatment area. Smartlipo is also ideal for revisions and “touch-ups.” Patients see results immediately after treatment and will continue to see improvements in the months ahead.

Patients who undergo the FDA-approved Smartlipo procedure can expect the same results they would receive from traditional liposuction methods, but with a shorter recovery time and fewer side effects.

Precision TX

Do you have extra fat around your neck or face? If so, Precision TX might be the choice for you. This laser technology is specifically intended for targeting and removing extra fat from your face and neck. The Precision TX method offers you fat reduction and also eliminates sagging skin from your lower face, jowls and neck area.

It uses a side-firing laser and uses ThermaGuide, which is a temperature-controlled system that safely heats tissues to promote collagen production and contraction. This procedure is also known as a “knifeless” facelift that helps to rejuvenate your aging skin with a fast recovery time.

It is a minimally invasive facelift that can be done in the office in less than one hour, and without having to stay at a hospital. Through a small incision and under local anesthesia, extra fat cells are removed from the neck and/or face. Sagging skin is gently and naturally lifted through laser energy that stimulates new collagen production around the jawline and neck. It does this without any noticeable scars, and without damaging the surrounding tissues. Following the treatment, you can go home and see results in as little as two to three weeks.

Precision TX is ideal for individuals who desire to look younger, but don’t have the recovery time available for a surgical procedure.

In addition to the application on neck and face, Precision TX can be used in the underarm area for the reduction of excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).


Because cellulite is not necessarily a problem with fat, many people may have trouble eliminating it. Cellulite is actually a structural problem that occurs directly underneath your skin. You can diet and do lunges and squats for years and still not be able to get rid of the rippling appearance of cellulite. Why? Because cellulite is not predominantly fat.

The good news is that Cellulaze, a revolutionary technology developed through Cynosure, is a minimally invasive, laser-assisted procedure that goes directly to the fibrous bands of tissue that are situated right under your skin, and helps to add thickness and elasticity. It not only decreases cellulite by loosening the pull of the connective fibrous tissues that make your skin have that cottage cheese appearance, but Cellulaze also promotes the production of collagen to give your skin a smoother, more youthful appearance.


BodyFX is perfect for getting rid of that so-called “muffin top,” as well as other fat deposits that are difficult to get rid of through dieting and exercise. It’s a non-invasive, cellulite body-contouring treatment that restores elasticity to your hips, thighs and abdomen while reducing fat deposits. If you want to avoid any type of invasive procedure (including our minimally invasive Smartlipo) then BodyFX is the solution.


This is a body-shaping procedure that is quite popular and provides you with the latest laser lipolysis advances. It shrinks fat cells using laser energy. Unlike traditional liposuction, iLipo doesn’t involve needles or downtime. iLipo is ideal for reducing those stubborn fat deposits that stick to the thighs, hips and abdomen, and for smoothing cellulite.

With low levels of laser energy, iLipo breaks down triglycerides, which store fat inside your fat cells, so your body can transport fatty acids safely throughout your body with your blood stream. Once your body assimilates this, the fatty acids and glycerol from fat cells broken down are consumed by your metabolism, which leads to more energy for your physical activities.

iLipo is an affordable body-sculpting option that doesn’t require hospitalization and doesn’t risk bleeding or infection. Patients love that they can go back to their normal activities after their iLipo session. The other great thing about iLipo is that you often see immediate results after the procedure. It’s recommended that you have several iLipo treatments over a three-to-four-week course to see optimal results.

All of these methods are great for eliminating unwanted fat, promoting elasticity and collagen production, removing cellulite and reshaping your body — however, the Smartlipo procedure will provide you with the greatest long-term benefits.

Are you the Perfect Candidate for Laser Liposuction?

You are a great candidate for this procedure if you have a mild-to-moderate amount of skin laxity and excess fat. This normally happens after around the age of 35 years old. You are a good candidate if you are around 20% overweight or less. This treatment is not meant for people who struggle with obesity.

If you have good muscle tone and are in good physical condition, you will most likely respond positively to laser liposuction, since the underlying support of your tissues is your muscles. Laser lipo fat reduction is by far the least invasive and most comfortable choice for getting that perfect body shape you’ve always wanted with a single procedure.

Preparing for Laser Lipolysis Treatments

Talk with your doctor to obtain any specific instructions you have to follow before going through this procedure.  Your preparation requirements may vary depending on the specific body shaping procedure you choose.

This may include stopping (if necessary) any medications you’re on, such as drugs that contain ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen. You’ll be asked to kick the smoking habit, which, along with its already negative health effects, could impair your healing process.

Your doctor may ask you to take a multivitamin, but discontinue herbal vitamins. It’s also important to eat healthy in the days, weeks and months leading up to your procedure, as the more nutrients your body has, the faster your healing process may be.

Overall, laser liposuction is far better tolerated than the older liposuction procedures. You don’t get those headaches and nausea from general anesthesia, and there’s no need for sutures and large incisions. You also get less swelling, bruising and bleeding with laser liposuction. Typically, you feel comfortable during and after the procedure and are able to get up and get back to your normal daily routine quickly following this laser body contouring procedure.

Synergy Wellness Center offers a variety of non-invasive and minimally invasive body sculpting procedures, including Smartlipo, Precision TX, iLipo, Cellulaze and BodyFX to transform your body. To learn more about the benefits of Smartlipo or the other body sculpting procedures, contact Synergy Wellness Center today!

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About the Author:

President, Medical Director: Jan Trobisch, MD

Dr. Jan Trobisch graduated from the esteemed Freie Universität Berlin in 1999 and completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, California, by 2004. After his residency, Dr. Trobisch worked as a hospitalist and served as an attending physician for the residency program. He founded Synergy Wellness Center in 2009.

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