What is laser liposuction?

Laser liposuction is an FDA-approved, minimally invasive surgical procedure that uses laser energy to liquefy fat cells before they’re suctioned out through a thin tube called a cannula.

Some surgeons believe that it's less aggressive than traditional liposuction, with a shorter recovery time, because liquefying fat makes it easier to remove. Others argue that the heat generated by the laser fiber causes undue trauma to treated areas and that there are safer ways to loosen fat cells prior to suctioning, including power-assisted lipo (PAL) and ultrasonic liposuction, commonly called VASER lipo.

Proponents of laser lipo say the laser’s heat spurs collagen production, to mildly tighten loose skin, which may help prevent skin laxity once the underlying fat is removed.

“Energy-based liposuction [such as with lasers] gives the best fat reduction and skin tightening, along with contouring and shaping,” according to Dr. Jason Emer, a dermatologic surgeon in West Hollywood, California.

The most popular treatment areas for laser liposuction are the upper arms, thighs, flanks (love handles), neck, and under the chin. It’s also often used on the abdomen for liposculpture (aka hi-def lipo), to create the appearance of six-pack abs.

Like all liposuction, laser lipo is not a weight loss solution: it’s a body contouring procedure that’s intended to reduce stubborn pockets of excess fat.

What are the pros and cons of laser liposuction?


As with other liposuction techniques, you'll only need one procedure to achieve dramatic results, which will be immediately apparent. “The results of that single laser liposuction procedure are 60%-80% more effective than noninvasive fat reduction procedures such as CoolSculpting, which requires multiple sessions,” says Dr. Philip Schoenfeld, a facial plastic surgeon in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Laser lipo is a cosmetic surgery that permanently removes body fat. As long as you maintain a steady weight, results will be long-lasting.

This type of liposuction can offer mild skin tightening benefits.

Laser lipo can be performed without the additional cost and risks of general anesthesia.


Because the fat is liquified, it’s generally not viable for fat transfer to the face or other areas of the body—for example, as part of a Brazilian butt lift. (One notable exception: The BeautiFill fat transfer system uses a low-level 1470-nm laser to break up and remove fat without liquefying it. The system has been shown to yield viable fat that is well-retained in the face for at least 6 months, the duration of the study.)

If an inappropriate wavelength is administered, or the laser fiber travels too close to the underside of the skin, laser liposuction can cause burns.

Laser liposuction isn't a cellulite treatment.

The outpatient procedure delivers a very modest skin-tightening effect and is not a replacement for a tummy tuck.

It's also not ideal for those looking to reduce their body weight significantly. Good candidates are already at (or close to) their ideal weight.

Laser liposuction vs. laser lipolysis: what's the difference?

The term laser lipo is sometimes used to describe noninvasive fat reduction treatments, such as i-Lipo, Zerona, and strawberry laser lipo.

Unlike laser-assisted liposuction, laser lipolysis doesn’t liquify and remove unwanted fat deposits: it uses laser energy to shrink fat cells. It often requires multiple rounds of treatment to achieve the desired results—typically two visits a week for at least four weeks.

While some results can be immediately apparent, it takes several months for your body to fully metabolize the released fat cell contents. You won’t see your final fat reduction results from this minimally invasive procedure for between two and six months.

Results from a true laser lipo treatment (like Smart Lipo) are permanent, provided you maintain a steady weight, while laser lipolysis results are not: over time, triglycerides can build up in your fat cells and reverse your results.

Nonsurgical energy-based body sculpting treatments can be a good option for those looking to avoid surgery. Just keep your expectations realistic: results won't be as dramatic as those from liposuction fat removal treatments (laser or otherwise). You can also expect that it will take multiple sessions over several months to achieve the results you want.

How much does laser lipo cost?

Average Cost:



$720 - $14,995

The price you pay for this cosmetic procedure will depend on your provider's credentials, their location, the extent of your procedure, and whether you have a local anesthetic or general anesthesia, and a few other key factors.

Elective plastic surgery isn’t covered by insurance, but most providers accept financing options like CareCredit.

Who’s a good candidate for laser liposuction?

Good candidates for laser liposuction are healthy adults who are physically active and within 20 pounds of their ideal weight.

This is a procedure for those looking to remove stubborn fat from specific areas of the body.

You’re not a good candidate for laser liposuction if:

You’re looking for a weight loss procedure

You have unrealistic expectations

You have excess skin or laxity from previous weight loss

You have underlying health concerns, like heart disease

You’re on a medication that can increase your risk of bleeding, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, or anticoagulants

How does laser liposuction work?

The outpatient procedure itself takes 45 minutes to an hour per treatment area. Here’s how it works.

First, your surgeon will mark the areas where they plan to remove excess fat and refine your body’s contours.

Laser liposuction can be performed under local anesthesia with mild sedation or general anesthesia, depending on your surgeon’s preference and the extent of your procedure. If you are getting the surgery done under deep sedation or general anesthesia, an anesthesia provider will administer it.

Once any anesthesia takes effect, your surgeon will make a small incision in the skin and insert a thin laser fiber into the unwanted body fat.

They’ll turn on the laser to an appropriate wavelength to liquefy the fat, without burning the surrounding tissue.

Then they'll suction out the fat via a thin tube called a cannula.

Is laser lipo painful?

Laser liposuction performed under local anesthesia alone “does require patients to experience some needles and infiltration cannulas, which causes mild but tolerable pain,” says Dr. Khalifeh. If you have general anesthesia or deep sedation, you shouldn’t feel any discomfort during the procedure itself.

It is normal to feel deeply sore, swollen, and uncomfortable during the first few days of recovery.

“Patients should expect to experience approximately 48 hours of discomfort, during which they will take pain medication and recuperate by reducing daily activities in order to heal,” says Dr. Ryan Neinstein, a plastic surgeon in New York City.

How long does laser liposuction recovery take?

Most patients need at least three days of downtime after a laser liposuction procedure. “Treating multiple areas at once may require a bit more downtime, since each area being treated will feel sore and tender,” says Dr.Neinstein.

You should be able to return to most of your normal activities (including work) after three to four days, but you’ll need to wait one to two weeks before you hit the gym.

Your doctor will probably also recommend that you wear a compression garment for one to two weeks, to help reduce swelling and prevent skin laxity in the treated area.

How soon will you see laser lipo results?

You’ll see some body contouring results immediately after your procedure.

It can take up to six weeks for all of the swelling to go down and new collagen to form. That’s when you’ll see your final results.

Is laser lipo permanent?

Laser lipo results can be permanent. Once the fat cells are suctioned out, they’re gone for good.

However, any remaining fat cells in and around the treated areas can still expand if you gain weight. It’s important to maintain a stable weight after your procedure to maintain your results.

Is laser liposuction safe? What are the side effects?

Laser liposuction procedures are considered safe, in the hands of an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon. But like all surgery, it does come with side effects and the potential for complications during recovery.

The most common side effects of laser liposuction are bruising, numbness, and swelling. That said, the heat from the laser fiber theoretically coagulates small blood vessels, which may result in less bruising than you'd have with tumescent lipo.

Infection or bleeding post-procedure are also possible.

Another potential complication is dents or asymmetry. “All liposuction procedures, including laser liposuction, also have the risk of contour irregularities,” cautions Dr. Schoenfeld.

With Smart Lipo, BeautiFill, and other laser-assisted liposuction techniques, burns are possible. Serious burns can lead to skin necrosis (tissue death) and scarring. An experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon should be able to monitor the temperature and your skin’s reaction to the heat, to reduce your risk of burns.

Your surgeon should discuss all of these risks with you during your initial consultation.

Laser liposuction vs. CoolSculpting: How do they compare?

CoolSculpting is one of the most popular options for nonsurgical fat reduction. Instead of using lasers, CoolSculpting freezes fat cells, which are then eliminated by the body through the lymphatic system, with no cannula involved.

It also takes longer to see CoolSculpting results: most people don't see significant results from CoolSculpting until they've had multiple treatments, and waited two months or longer for the dead fat cells to be naturally eliminated.

Dr. Khalifeh highlights another major difference: CoolSculpting handpieces are placed “on a specific and localized region and shrink that region exclusively. This does not allow the same type flexibility in reshaping your body that laser lipo allows.” He points out that laser lipo offers the “major advantage” of allowing the surgeon to “taper the treatment areas into surrounding regions, in order to blend the contours aesthetically.”

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