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Ultrasonic Assisted Liposuction a Key to Unlocking Fat
If you have tried everything to lose weight but still have a
bottom that would make Rubens smile appreciatively or a love handle
that will not go away, ultrasonic
assisted liposuction (UAL) -- a new cosmetic surgery technique
being offered by Joseph O'Connell, M.D., -- may
be the remedy.
The chief of the Plastic Surgery Center at Bridgeport Hospital,
Dr. O'Connell is a longtime Connecticut resident and maintains
a private cosmetic surgery practice at 208 Post Road West, where
he recently spoke about UAL while awaiting the arrival of "Nicole,"
a 30-something sales representative from Westport who was going
to have the procedure done on her buttocks and thighs later that
In his office, where one wall is filled with his professional
credentials -- Dr. O'Connell received his medical degree from
Cornell University Medical College and completed a five-year residency
in general surgery prior to his residency in plastic and reconstructive
surgery at New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center, where he
also served as chief resident in plastic surgery at the Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; is certified by the American Board
of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery; and is a
fellow of the American College of Surgeons -- he began by offering
a short overview of liposuction, which was developed in France
in the 1970s.
In conventional liposuction, a
small incision, which is later hidden as the skin around it heals,
is made and a hollow titanium rod called a cannula is inserted.
The cannula, which is about as thick as a straw and has vents
on its side, is connected to a pump so that as the surgeon moves
it back and forth and in circles under the patient's skin, he
pushes through the fat deposits and vacuums the chunks away, Dr.
In addition to removing fat, however, traditional liposuction
often removes surrounding connective tissues and blood vessels,
Dr. O'Connell said, and is not practical for large, fibrous areas
such as the upper abdomen, back and breasts.
Dr. O'Connell, who has performed "thousands" of cosmetic
surgeries in Fairfield County since 1988 and "hundreds"
of UAL procedures since March, said UAL is similar to traditional
liposuction but is done with a cannula equippled with a probe
that produces very high-frequency sound waves, which cause fat
cells to implode instantly and melt before being vacuumed out
by the rest of the rod.
"Sound waves do the work and make fat cells release their
oil, and an unexpected benefit of UAL is that it works like a
paint gun, giving a smoother result than traditional liposuction,"
he said. UAL also results in less bruising, quicker recovery and
more skin shrinkage, he said. Many American plastic surgeons,
however, may continue to use conventional liposuction because
UAL is still relatively new to this country, although the technique
has been widely practiced in Europe since the late 1980s.
Neither conventional liposuction nor UAL, however, is a substitute
for losing weight through diet and exercise, Dr. O'Connell stressed.
But for those who have a genetic or hormonal predisposition to
accumulating fat in specific areas of the body -- hormones account
for 80 percent of the fat that women gain in their thighs and
hips, he said -- it can definitely help.
"People can be in incredible physical shape but can't burn
fat off in some parts of their body," Dr. O'Connell said,
citing as an example Nicole, who exercises regularly but still
has fat deposits that won't go away.
Nicole is an ideal candidate for UAL, he said, because she is
already close to her ideal body weight, has no pre-existing medical
conditions that could be complicated by the surgery and has no
illusions that removing fat will change anything about her save
the shape and size of her body. Elective cosmetic surgery is almost
never paid for by insurance, he said, and the cost of UAL for
hips and thighs runs between $3,000 and $5,000, while liposuction
of the stomach area is approximately $3,000.
Getting Down to Business
In addition to a barrage of question's in each patient's initial
interview, Dr. O'Connell makes a video recording of the patient's
body, then loads the tape into a computer modeling program. The
images of the look the patient wants to achieve are then printed
out and used by Dr. O'Connell during the surgery as guidelines.
When the time for her surgery came, Nicole admitted she was "definitely
"I'll definitely feel happier if we get the desired results,
especially if I can be wearing a bathing suit" and looking
good in it this summer, she said.
But before she entered the operation room and disrobed -- no,
UAL is not for the modest; "you get embarrassed with your
priest and your plastic surgeon," Dr. O'Connell said -- Nicole
and the doctor went over an extensive consent form.
"We're changing your body permanently," he told her.
Regarding the "unknown risks" of the surgery, Dr. O'Connell
said, "we don't know the long-term effects of UAL."
Dr. O'Connell's humor, however, belies his concern for the mental
and physical well-being of his patients.
"We take great extremes to minimize risk," he said,
explaining that Nicole had been scrubbing with anti-bacterial
soap for three days to lower her body's bacteria count and would
receive two antibiotics during the surgery.
Because the greatest risk of injury to a patient in any surgical
procedure is in using anesthesia, Dr. O'Connell eschews the drugs
that depress the central nervous system and knock the patient
completely out. Instead, he uses mild sedatives to make the patient
gently nod off but keep breathing under his or her own power,
and a very-short-acting local anesthetic.
In the operating room, a clinical registered nurse anesthetist
monitored Nicole's vital signs -- a defibrillator and other emergency
medical equipment were on hand should anything have gone wrong
-- while an operating room nurse helped Dr. O'Connell get into
his scrub gown. Nicole was lying face down on the operating table,
her buttocks and thighs smeared with an antiseptic and marked
with contour lines corresponding to the computer images of what
she wanted to look like.
Once the initial incision was made, Dr. O'Connell inserted the
UAL probe and began what would turn out to be a two-and-a-half
hour operation. After Nicole wakened -- very shortly after the
end of surgery -- she recuperated for several hours under the
attention of a nurse in another room at the office, and for about
three weeks she wore an elastic under garment to help control
swelling and bleeding and help her skin shrink to fit her new
During a follow-up consultation, Nicole and Dr. O'Connell will
review how successful the surgery was and, if necessary, what
surgery will be required to help her look the way she did in the
While Nicole's surgery was under way, "Susan," a 21-year-old
who earlier in the day had UAL done to her thighs, hips, and buttocks,
was feeling "a little groggy but OK" in the recovery
Ultrasonic liposuction plastic surgery article featured in
Fairfield Citizen News.
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To contact Connecticut plastic surgeon Dr. Joseph B. O'Connell about any cosmetic surgery procedures, please fill out
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