The History of Liposuction

There’s no question that liposuction is one of the most popular cosmetic surgical procedures currently available. In fact, it was the second most popular cosmetic surgery for 2016, according to the American Society for Plastic Surgeon, with more than 235,000 liposuction procedures performed by its member surgeons that year. Our surgeons at Jefferson Plastic Surgery report that liposuction is just as consistently popular with their patients.

One reason that liposuction remains so popular is due to the tremendous advances that have happened in order to increase safety as well as make it easier to remove more fat from target areas more efficiently. The procedure has certainly come a long way from its rather crude beginnings in the early 20th century. Let’s take a look back so we can appreciate just how far things have come with this very popular procedure.

First Known Liposuction Procedure

The first attempt at liposuction took place in Paris in the 1920s. Dr. Charles Dujarier performed the procedure on the knees of a well-known model and dancer. Unfortunately, gangrene set in. Needless to say, the outcome from this first attempt at liposuction brought further research on the procedure to a halt for approximately 50 years.

Further Advances in the 1970s and 1980s

Interest in using liposuction to remove excess fat from the body gained ground again in the mid-1970s. A father-and-son team of Italian gynecologists, Giorgio Fischer, Sr. and Jr., invented a technique that used a small, rotating scalpel inside a thin, hollow metal tube (called a cannula) inserted through small incisions in the body. The idea was that the rotating scalpel would break up the fat deposits so that they could be removed with a vacuum machine. Although it was certainly an improvement on Dujarier’s attempt, the first cannula technique was still rather crude and resulted in a great deal of blood loss.

In the late 1970s, a French plastic surgeon, Dr. Yves-Gerard Illouz, improved on the Fischers’ technique with the invention of a cannula with a blunt tip. This new type of cannula reduced blood loss and nerve damage, as well as reducing the risk of complications or death from liposuction procedures. He went on to partner with another French physician, Dr. Pierre-Francois Fournier to further refine this technique and teach it to other European plastic surgeons.

In 1985, a Californian dermatologist introduced the tumescent liposuction technique, which allowed for more fat removal, at far less risk to the patient. In this technique, a mixture of a local anesthetic and epinephrine is injected just below the skin in the areas targeted for fat removal. This causes the fat cells to swell and move closer to the skin surface, making them easier to remove.

1990s and Beyond

From the 1990s onward, various techniques to refine liposuction, as well as make it more efficient, effective, and safe, began to be seen. These techniques included the use of ultrasound, vibration, fat freezing, and lasers to help break up the fat cells for easier removal.

Liposuction has certainly made tremendous advances from its crude beginnings in the first half of the 20th century. There are any number of techniques that can be used to remove stubborn pockets of excess fat, depending upon both how much fat is to be removed and the areas that are targeted for fat removal. Our surgeons can help you determine which liposuction technique will best suit your particular needs. 

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Jefferson Plastic Surgery is located on the corner of 9th and Walnut streets in Center City, Philadelphia on the 15th floor of the Wills Eye Hospital Building.

Jefferson Plastic Surgery
840 Walnut Street - 15th Floor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
Phone: (215) 625-6630
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