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Liposuction is a body contouring procedure that can be performed using different technical strategies. The best approach may vary from patient to patient, and patients are ultimately responsible for choosing the technique they desire based on the recommendations and information provided by their surgeon. But choosing your body contouring technique doesn’t have to be a difficult decision. Both power-assisted liposuction and Smartlipo® are excellent procedures, and whether one is better for you depends on your needs and desires.

Smartlipo® and Power-Assisted Liposuction Before and After Photos

Smartlipo® (left) of the submental area versus Power-Assisted Liposuction (right) of the abdomen.

The Main Difference

The main difference between power-assisted liposuction (PAL) and laser-assisted liposuction (Smartlipo®) is the means by which they destroy the fat. Both procedures ultimately suction the fat out from the body through a cannula. However, they employ differing strategies in preparing the fat for removal. PAL uses a powered wand to vibrate the fatty tissue, breaking it into smaller pieces so that it is easier to remove. Smartlipo® directs laser energy to the heat the fat cells so that they rupture and melt, making them easier to remove.


PAL usually requires general anesthesia, whereas Smartlipo® is frequently performed under local anesthesia. PAL may be better for those who have larger amounts of fat to be removed and for patients who are nervous about their procedure and would rather not be awake for it. Smartlipo® could be the better choice for patients who need smaller amounts of fat removed and who would benefit from minimal amounts of skin tightening. It is worth noting that general anesthesia helps to eliminate the discomfort and anxiety that can occur under local anesthesia. However, general anesthesia can cause lingering side effects such as nausea, achiness, and confusion or disorientation as well as a greater risk of long-term effects.

Treatment Availability

Smartlipo® is only available in a limited number of plastic surgery practices. For patients whose travel options may be limited, PAL may be more available. Dr. O’Toole is pleased to offer both techniques here at Pasadena Cosmetic Surgery.

Incisions and Scarring

There is no difference in the incisions used for PAL versus Smartlipo®. Both require small incisions in the target areas, which means that the potential for scarring is the same for both. Scarring after liposuction is typically quite minimal and inconspicuous. As with most surgical scars, any noticeable scarring should fade over time.

Skin Tightening

While PAL does not tighten the skin, the laser in Smartlipo® can tighten the skin to improve the results. Smartlipo® may be the better option for patients in need of minor skin tightening. However, Smartlipo® cannot correct significant amounts of excess, hanging skin. Its benefit of skin tightening is minor, and patients who need major correction of sagging skin should consider surgical procedures such as abdominoplasty or a body lift. For patients who do not need minor skin tightening, either Smartlipo® or PAL may be appropriate.

Recovery Time

Smartlipo® tends to have a faster recovery time with reduced swelling, bruising, and pain. This procedure is less invasive than other liposuction techniques and may have only a few days of downtime.


Both PAL and Smartlipo® can treat a wide range of areas. However, Smartlipo® may be more useful for smaller areas of the back, abdomen, buttocks, flanks, thighs, breasts, arms, neck, and face. The laser probe is small and precise, which allows it to be especially useful in areas where great precision is needed. On the other hand, patients who need substantial amounts of fat removed or treatment of multiple areas may be better off with PAL. PAL is especially beneficial for patients in need of large-volume fat removal or removal of dense, fibrous fat.

Which Procedure Is Right for Me?

These points may be beneficial in guiding you toward one technique over the other. However, Dr. O’Toole can guide you in making the best decision between PAL and Smartlipo® based on years of experience working with patients of all types. He would be happy to answer all your questions during your complimentary consultation and help you select the ideal treatment for you.

Both power-assisted liposuction and Smartlipo® can produce excellent results and may greatly improve body contour. To request your free liposuction consultation with Dr. O’Toole, please call (626) 449-8910 or fill out our online contact form today.