What Is Laser Lipolysis?

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on September 20, 2023
3 min read

Laser lipolysis is a non-invasive form of body sculpting. It removes small fat deposits. Like surgical liposuction, this procedure permanently removes fat cells from your body. It’s much less painful, though, and laser lipolysis recovery is also shorter and less complicated. It also comes with a lower risk of loose skin afterward.

Laser lipolysis differs from traditional liposuction, which is considered major surgery and requires general anesthesia (the patient is put into a sleep during the procedure). With surgical lipo, the surgeon inserts instruments into a layer of fat and uses a tube to break up fat cells and suction them out. Recovery can take months‌.

Laser lipolysis can be done in the doctor’s office. It takes about half an hour, and you can return to normal activity right away. There is no anesthesia involved.

To do the laser “lipo,” your doctor attaches paddle-like applicators to the area to be treated. The paddles emit heat that penetrates your skin and heats up the fat cells underneath. The heat damages the membranes of the fat cells, so they start to die off. Your body then absorbs the dead cells.

It takes time -- about six weeks -- to see the final results of the treatment. After that, you should have noticeable sculpting in the area that was treated. Some people need more than one treatment for optimal results.

The recovery is very easy. Most people can resume normal activity the same day, though you may encounter some soreness or redness at the treatment site.

Plastic surgeons recommend laser lipo for removing fat from specific areas, including:

  • Belly
  • Flanks
  • Back
  • Inner and outer thighs

Laser-assisted liposuction differs from laser lipo. It combines elements of surgical liposuction with the use of a laser to destroy fat cells. The procedure does require small incisions and inserting instruments under your skin. However, it is not as invasive as traditional liposuction, and recovery is much easier. 

Your doctor will use a local anesthetic to numb the treatment site, but you will be awake for the procedure. Once the skin is numb, your doctor will make a small incision and insert a laser into the fat tissue underneath your skin. The laster will rupture the fat cells and liquefy the fat.

As the fat liquefies, your doctor will use a narrow tube (cannula) to suction the fat out of your body. Unlike traditional liposuction, there is minimal damage to the other tissue around the treatment site. There is also much less likelihood of bruising or swelling after the procedure. 

You may have some discomfort for a few days after the procedure. Your doctor might suggest wearing a compression garment to reduce swelling. You will need to care for your incisions to prevent infection. Most of the time, people are able to resume their regular activities within a day or two of laser-assisted liposuction. 

You’ll be able to see some changes right away. The results will continue to improve over the next few weeks.

This procedure is best for removing fat pockets from:

  • Abdomen
  • Buttocks
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Neck
  • Thighs
  • Upper arms
  • Waist

Laser lipo has results that are as good as traditional liposuction. Its less invasive methods mean that you have an easier recovery from the procedure. There are some laser lipo risks, but symptoms, such as redness and swelling, are mild. 

There is also a small risk of infection at the site of incisions made during laser-assisted lipo. 

Experts have noted that laser lipolysis and laser-assisted liposuction result in skin-tightening after the procedure. Lasers stimulate collagen production. With traditional liposuction, the skin over the fat deposits may remain lax or saggy.