Laser lipolysis is a type of cosmetic surgery. It uses laser energy to change the shape and appearance of your body. There are other kinds of lipolysis that involve injections or radio wave treatments, but laser lipolysis is the most common technique.

Lipolysis targets smaller deposits of fat on specific parts of the body. You may be a good candidate if you have fatty tissue on your abdomen, hips, thighs, or buttocks that you wish to get rid of. This procedure typically isn’t recommended for people who are obese.

If you’re interested in lipolysis, you’ll need to have a consultation with a licensed plastic surgeon about your goals. They can talk you through your individual benefits and any possible risks.

Benefits

  • There’s little risk of infection to the treated area.
  • The risk of scarring is minimal.
  • The recovery period is shorter than with some other procedures. You can usually resume your normal activities about a week afterward.

Lipolysis uses lasers to break fat cells apart, reducing the volume of fatty tissue. This process is also said to tighten the skin in the area where the treatment is applied. You may find that your skin is smoother and tighter than before.

Overall, lipolysis offers similar benefits to other fat removal procedures. The lasers used in this procedure are safe for clinical use and don’t pose a big risk of burning your skin. There’s little risk of infection to the treated area, and scarring is minimal.

But it does have some advantages over cosmetic surgeries like liposuction. Lipolysis can be done in your doctor’s office. There’s also a shorter recovery period. You can usually resume your normal activities in a few days. By comparison, liposuction typically comes with a recovery period of several weeks.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of nonsurgical fat reduction, such as lipolysis, is close to $1,700 per session. However, the cost will vary according to the region you live in and your practitioner.

Make sure you find out what your approximate costs will be before you book a treatment. Lipolysis is an optional procedure, so it isn’t covered by insurance. If you can’t afford the out-of-pocket costs outright, talk to your doctor about payment plan options.

Your doctor will provide you with specific information on how to prepare for your procedure.

They may advise you to:

  • Stop taking blood thinners and anti-inflammatory drugs for two weeks prior to your procedure. These medications could interfere with your body’s healing process.
  • Avoid activity that might irritate the area that is going to be treated for a week prior to the procedure. This includes tanning and shaving.

Make sure that your doctor is aware of any preexisting health conditions or prescription medications that you take. They can advise you on any other necessary precautions.

After the procedure, your doctor will give you a sheet of detailed instructions that will make your recovery process easier. Follow these instructions and watch the site of the lipolysis closely to make sure your skin heals properly.

Although you should be able to resume everyday activities rather quickly, it may be a good idea to arrange a ride home after the procedure. You shouldn’t drive if you’re feeling any discomfort, so plan ahead.

This procedure usually takes less than an hour, and you’ll be awake the entire time.

In most cases, only one session is needed. This is true even if you choose to have it done on multiple areas of your skin.

Sometimes, lipolysis is done in combination with traditional liposuction. This can add to the duration and recovery process. Talk to your doctor about what you can expect.

If you’re getting laser lipolysis only, your appointment will go something like this:

  1. You’re prepped in a sterile environment, most likely in your doctor’s office, and given sterile scrubs or a gown to wear.
  2. A local anesthetic is then injected into the area where you’re having lipolysis.
  3. Your doctor makes a very small (sometimes only a millimeter!) incision at the area where you have unwanted fat deposits.
  4. Your doctor inserts the laser underneath the top layer of your skin through the incision. They’ll move it back and forth under your skin from different angles. During this time, you may feel some heat or even a cold sensation. Because of the anesthesia, you shouldn’t much discomfort.
  5. The fat deposits that are broken up by the laser are either massaged out of the area or vacuumed out, depending on how much “melted” fat there is to remove.

After the fat is removed, you’ll be able to get up, walk around, and resume most everyday activities as soon as you’re ready to leave the doctor’s office.

You’ll likely experience minor bruising and discomfort for several days after the procedure.

If the laser site isn’t properly cared for after the procedure, you may be at risk for infection and scarring. In severe cases, blood clots can occur. You should see your doctor if you’re experiencing any unusual swelling, pain, or discharge.

This is a relatively new procedure, so very little is known about the potential for long-term risks.

After you have lipolysis, you may need to take an antibiotic for three to five days to ward off infections. Your doctor will also talk to you about how to maximize the results of your procedure, be it with a certain course of exercise or a change in diet.

Recovery times differ, but plan on taking at least eight days off from working out and other strenuous activities.

You should be able to see some of the effects of lipolysis right away. Your skin might appear tighter, feel firmer, and be more compact. But you may also see some bruising, swelling, and irritation in the area where lipolysis was applied.

Keep an eye on the area, and see your doctor if you experience any unusual changes in pain or drainage.

Your doctor may ask to see you for a follow-up about a week after the procedure to make sure things are healing correctly.

The effects of lipolysis will vary greatly depending on your individual expectations. One 2011 review revealed that many people are dissatisfied with the results of their lipolysis. One study the review mentions found that in 51 percent of cases, not even a dermatologist can tell the difference between before-and-after photos of lipolysis.

Lipolysis may change the appearance of your body, but diet and exercise will determine if your results are permanent. If you do see visible results from your lipolysis, they should be permanent — provided you don’t gain any weight. If you do gain weight, the results from lipolysis will likely disappear.