The SAFE in SAFELipo stands for “Separation, Aspiration, and Fat Equalization.” While this isn’t to say that the procedure is safer than traditional liposuction, experience tells us that it provides the best results. This has made it the liposuction technique of choice for many plastic surgeons.
In this article, Drs. Gary D. Breslow and Jordan P. Farkas of The Breslow Center for Plastic Surgery in Paramus, New Jersey explain how the SAFE approach differs from traditional liposuction.
What Is SafeLipo?
Developed by Shreveport, LA plastic surgeon Dr. Simeon Wall Jr. in 2010, SAFELipo is a fairly recent liposuction technique. Originally devised to address the unique challenges of revision liposuction procedures, over time Dr. Wall discovered that this new method could benefit all body contouring patients.
Both SAFELipo and more traditional liposuction methods begin with the separation and aspiration of fat cells. SAFELipo adds an additional step to the procedure known as “fat equalization,” during which the remaining fat is emulsified and are redistributed evenly to produce a smoother, more contoured appearance.
Under the skin, fat cells form small droplets called lobules, with tiny blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue running in between them. The individual fat droplets are loosely attached, resting within this web of supporting tissue — much like raindrops on a spiderweb.
The first step of the procedure, also known as fat debulking, is performed by creating a small incision near a localized fat deposit. A sterile solution is then infused in the region to free up the tissue.
A liposuction “wand” is then introduced under the skin. The wand is passed back and forth across the fat deposit, freeing up and suctioning out the fat droplets.
Liposuction gives the best results when only the fat is suctioned, not the blood vessels (which causes bruising), nerves (which causes pain), or connective tissue (which can cause puckering or scarring). The fat must also be evenly reduced throughout the treated area, or the skin can take on a wavy, lumpy appearance. These are referred to as contour irregularities.
Many providers have long resorted to power-assisted liposuction, which involves the use of a vibrating wand, in order to minimize side effects and contour deformities.
In theory, using a vibrating wand that passes through the tissues more gently causes minimal disruption of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The vibration shakes the fat droplets loose from their supporting web, and allows them to be easily suctioned away.
Unfortunately, power-assisted liposuction sometimes causes the fat to be gathered unevenly, which can lead to puckering and scarring. This is the problem SAFElipo was developed to resolve.
SAFELipo may also be combined with other procedures such as a tummy tuck or breast lift. It is also used for secondary revision procedures on patients who weren’t happy with the results of a previous liposuction, or during fat grafting procedures.
What areas can be treated?
Liposuction is commonly used to reduce localized fat deposits in the following areas:
- Thighs and legs
- Upper back
- Face or neck
SAFELipo tends to be preferred when there is circumferential fat deposits. An example would be the classic “spare tire” that runs around the abdomen and flanks.
If you would like to know more about SAFELipo, feel free to reach out to us for a consult — Drs. Gary D. Breslow and Jordan P. Farkas have performed countless liposuction procedures on patients from Northern New Jersey and beyond. You can also see examples of the results that can be achieved by clicking on the link below and visiting our Before and After gallery.
How Long Does It Take to Recover?
Recovery time depends on if you had SAFELipo alone, or it was combined with another procedure. SAFELipo alone requires minimal incisions, and because uses a gentler suction than traditional liposuction, it doesn’t take quite as long to recover.
Most patients feel well enough to go back to work within a few days. Soreness can persist for up to 1-2 weeks, and swelling takes about 8 weeks to subside entirely. It can take several months to see the final results, as skin tightening can occur for up to a year after the procedure.
As with any surgical procedure, liposuction carries the risk of scar formation, infection, and body fluids collecting where the operation was performed.
When you meet with your surgeon to decide on surgery, it’s always good practice to ask about the risks of your specific operation and the potential outcomes you might have.
Additional Reading and References
- Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons: SAFE Liposuction Concepts for Comprehensive Body Contouring
- The Aesthetic Channel: SAFELipo Maximizes Smooth, Even Fat Removal