Doctors Giorgio and Arpad Fischer, two American surgeons working in Rome, Italy, invented the liposuction procedure in 1974. The roots of liposuction, however, date back to the 1920s. Relatively modern techniques for body contouring and removal of fat was first performed by a French surgeon, Charles Dujarier. A tragic case that resulted in gangrene in the leg of a French model in a procedure performed by Dr. Dujarier in 1926 set back interest in body contouring for decades to follow.
Liposuction evolved from work in the late 1960s from surgeons in Europe and was pioneered in the United States by the European surgeon Leon Forrester Tcheupdjian using primitive curettage techniques which were largely ignored, as they achieved irregular results with significant morbidity and bleeding. Modern liposuction first burst on the scene in a presentation by the French surgeon, Dr Yves-Gerard Illouz, in 1982. The “Illouz Method” featured a technique of suction-assisted lipolysis after infusing fluid into tissues using blunt cannulas and high-vacuum suction and demonstrated both reproducible good results and low morbidity. During the 1980s, many United States surgeons experimented with liposuction, developing some variations, and achieving mixed results.
In 1985, Klein and Lillis described the “tumescent technique”, which added high volumes of fluid containing a local anesthetic allowing the procedure to be done in an office setting under intravenous sedation rather than general anesthesia. Concerns over the high volume of fluid and potential toxicity of lidocaine with tumescent techniques eventually led to the concept of lower volume “super wet” tumescence.
In the late 1990s, ultrasound was introduced to facilitate the fat removal by first liquefying it using ultrasonic energy. After a flurry of initial interest, an increase in reported complications tempered the enthusiasm of many practitioners.
Technologies involving the use of laser tipped probes (which induce a thermal lipoysis) have been introduced in recent years and are being evaluated to examine any potential benefit over traditional techniques.
Overall, the advantages of 30 years of improvements have been that more fat cells can more easily be removed, with less blood loss, less discomfort, and less risk. Recent developments suggest that the recovery period can be shortened as well. In addition, fat can also be used as a natural filler. This is sometimes referred to as “autologous fat transfer” and in general, for these procedures, fat is removed from one area of the patient’s body (for example, the stomach), cleaned, and then re-injected into an area of the body where contouring is desired, for example, to reduce or eliminate wrinkles.