Non-invasive fat removal versus liposuction

With all the different types of surgical and non-surgical fat removal and fat reduction treatments available today, you may be wondering what’s the difference and which one is best for me? Board certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Fritz E. Barton, Jr., MD who oversees and manages Surface Clinical, breaks down the different options:

Non-Invasive Fat Removal

There are three basic mechanisms of non-invasive fat removal: heat, mechanical, and cold disruption. At Surface Clinical, we have evaluated all these technologies.

Heat is usually delivered either by ultrasound (LiposonixTM), or radiofrequency (VanquishTM). These methods can be both painful and inconsistent. Laser heat disruption of fat, aka Smart LipoTM, is not truly non-invasive, which means some downtime post-procedure is required.

Mechanical fat disruption can be achieved by the “photoacoustic” effect of ultrasound (i.e. UltrashapeTM). Non-painful sound waves fracture the walls of the fat cells. The technology has real promise, but to date, the treatment has yielded inconsistent results.

Cold is administered by CoolSculptTM. The principle underlying the CoolSculpting treatment is that fat cells are particularly susceptible to cold, which causes the fat cells to gradually die and be naturally eliminated by normal body processes. CoolSculpt results are very consistent but remove only about 1/8 inch of fat per application.

In our experience at Surface Clinical, CoolSculpt is the most reliable fat removal procedure.


The difference in non-surgical and surgical fat removal procedures is magnitude.

Liposuction can remove large volumes of fat throughout the trunk, or core, of the body. New methods such as SAFElipoTM can provide more thorough and even fat removal. However, liposuction of wide areas of the body requires either sedation or general anesthesia in an operating room, and there is a 7 to 10-day post-operative recovery.

Conversely, non-invasive CoolSculpting does not require anesthesia and has little to no downtime. However, it is a “fine tuning” procedure for people who are near their ideal weight, but have small residual bulges which don’t respond to diet control and/or exercise.

The preferred method of non-invasive fat removal at Surface Clinical is hands down CoolSculpt. Our patients have seen consistent, reliable results, and love the fact that each treatment only takes about 30-45 minutes per application area. CoolSculpt results do take about three months to become fully apparent, so we generally recommend that patients complete at least two rounds of applications.

For more information on the CoolSculpt procedure, click here.

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