What Is Water Liposuction?

Marty Paule

Water liposuction, sometimes referred to as water-assisted or body jet liposuction, is a method used by plastic surgeons to remove fatty deposits using a water jet to dislodge them. A saline solution containing an anesthetic is first injected into the area to be treated. After the anesthetic has begun working, a tube is inserted through a small opening in the skin to provide the irrigation to loosen fat tissue. After being dislodged, the fat is suctioned out of the body. Because it does not require a general anesthetic and produces less bruising and trauma, water liposuction is considered less invasive and risky than other liposuction techniques.

Compression garments should be worn after water liposuction surgery as part of recovery.
Compression garments should be worn after water liposuction surgery as part of recovery.

Patients who are within 25 pounds (11 kg) of their ideal weight are considered the best candidates for water liposuction. The procedure is intended to help reshape problem areas that do not respond to exercise and diet. Rather than provide overall weight loss, water-assisted liposuction is usually aimed at eliminating unsightly fat deposits in areas such as the arms, thighs, and knees, as well as the chin, abdomen, and hips.

In performing water liposuction, the surgeon makes small incisions in the skin around the site where the fat is to be removed. An anesthetic is then injected through these incisions. After numbing occurs, a tube called a cannula that is connected to a water jet is inserted into the skin through a further small incision. The water jet produces a pressurized stream of saline solution that irrigates and dislodges the fat tissue to be removed. A suction device inserted into the cannula then suctions out the loosened fat deposits.

Unlike traditional laser-based liposuction requiring a general anesthetic, the local anesthetics used in water lipo pose fewer complication risks. Due to reduced trauma to surrounding tissues, healing and recovery time is also greatly reduced. Most patients find they are able to resume normal activities almost immediately, although plastic surgeons usually prescribe a day or two of rest. Depending on the extent of the water liposuction, the patient may be given a compression garment to wear that reduces bruising and swelling.

Traditional liposuction techniques employ liquids called tumescent fluids that are pumped into the area allowing the surgeon to manipulate the instruments used to remove and suction fat. The tissue expansion caused by tumescent fluids can make it more difficult for the surgeon to judge the effect of fat removal on body contours as the procedure progresses. By contrast, a surgeon using water liposuction can readily assess the changes produced after suctioning fat. Fat extracted using water liposuction can also be implanted in other parts of the patient's body where softer, rounder contours are desirable.

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