Learn what exactly you are looking for.
Liposuction, liposculpture, WAL, PAL, tumescent: are you still with me? It's ALL liposuction. All of it. And it's all tumescent. I love this quote of dr. P. Aldea:
"Tumescent liposuction is nothing but the universally performed pre-liposuction infiltration of the fat to be suctioned with a dilute solution of a local anesthetic (lidocain, marcain etc.) and adrenaline (epinephrine) which increases the accuracy of fat removal, largely reduced blood losses AND increases patient comfort."Source: http://www.realself.com/question/tumesecent-liposuction-general-local-anesthesia
As dr. Aldea puts it: the anesthesia is supplemented. Meaning: tumescent infiltration of the area to be suctioned is a given, but the type of anesthesia is a matter of choice. But mostly not the patient's choice. I'll get back on that.
PAL, WAL, UAL, LA etc.
Along with tumescent, there often are additional specifications regarding the technique a surgeon applies. They can use a specific suction device like Power Assisted (PAL) or apply a thin water beam to help losen the fat from the tissue: Water Assisted Liposuction (WAL). There are more flavors out there. I highlighted PAL and WAL, because lately these are frequently mentioned on patient forums. However, as you can read through the link, these are not the only options.
As you can read they all are presumed to have their merits and do something specific to spare the lymph, do minimal damage, minimize risk etc. Ask a surgeon which is best and you'll get an answer. Ask another surgeon and you'll get another answer.
As a layman I noticed the difference of opinion between professionals and let it be. A certain surgeon prefers a certain technique. Well, apparently that technique suits him/her best. My personal choice was to get over the various terms which I could only ever understand superficially and looked at the surgeon's track record instead: knowledge of lipedema and years of experience. After all: the tool doesn't define the result; it's the surgeon's skill in using the tool.
Note: there's more research out there now compared to the time I had my procedures. If you want to know more about a particular technique and how it works compared to an other or the "plain" technique, there's far more information to be found. Go straight for the "boring" stuff: formal publications, in order to avoid information designed as a scientific-looking piece of marketing. The quickest way to cut to the chase is to search through Google Scholar. It only contains scientific publications.
Plastic surgeon or cosmetic surgeon
A plastic surgeon is trained in hospitals by professionals and has completed related residencies. Cosmetic surgery is not taught through residency programs. Doctors seeking to learn cosmetic surgery typically get their training after their residencies. This pretty much means a doctor would need to organize his/her own training and has a certain freedom the raise the bar to his/her liking. Cosmetic surgery is practised by doctors from a variety of medical fields. Read more about the differences here.
However, deciding between a plastic surgeon or a cosmetic surgeon based on the title only is a trick question. Plastic surgery does NOT equal (knowledge of) liposuction. There are numerous specialties within plastic surgery. Plastic surgery is first and foremost focused on reconstruction of defects due to disorders you are born with, trauma, burns and disease. Lipedema qualifies as a 'disease'. Care to guess how many hospitals acknowledge the condition and offer liposuction as a treatment option? Few. Very few. As a consequence there are few well-trained and informed plastic surgeons out there. For reference: tumescent, which is raved about as a major improvement to liposuction surgery, is invented by an American dermatologist, dr. Klein.
When considering a surgeon you best look at expertise and experience. While you're at it, also look at client/patient reviews. In that context, beware of posers, pretending to be content patients. In the past some clinics have used this despicable method to lure clients. It may still occur...
To improve cosmetically or to improve mobility and reduce pain
This is not about starting a debate. Your body, your choice. It's just very important to find out where your priority is and whether that priority matches with the surgeon you're considering for the job. It's not either/or per se. It can be a little of both. But trust me: there are surgeons out there with a 100% focus on mobility and they will NOT be open to a post-op debate over looks. Even when the result is very uneven and/or irregular. There's also the patient who, in her heart, wants killer legs (back). Again, not judging. Just make sure you set out for a realistic goal with a surgeon who is able and willing to help you strive for that goal. Strive, yes. We're quite the canvas to work with. It's no exact science.
You want a good or even super cosmetic result?
Ask. Ask for pre-op and post-op pictures of women much like you: size, build, with lipedema. Don't let the surgeon just show you his/her best work ever on young ladies with little excess fat and lovely elastic skin. There's skin elasticity and the condition of your connective tissue to consider. Ask about your personal possibilities and impossibilities and, if needed, try to adjust your expectations. It's better to know before than after when there's no going back.
Look for a surgeon with knowledge of lipedema
Typically, those seeking liposuction for purely cosmetic reasons need to have little fat removed. It's not designed as weight loss surgery. Many surgeons even refuse to operate when the BMI is on the high end. Many of these surgeons commonly remove 1 liter, maybe 2 per surgery. A drop in the bucket for most of us. We need someone who can and will remove more.
He/she would have to be aware of the fact that we need to be especially careful with our sluggish and sometimes already compromised lymphatic system. As well as: possible poor skin elasticity, weak connective tissue and possibly slower healing.
General anesthesia or local
General anesthesia in itself poses a (small) risk, on top of the risks inherent to liposuction. You can draw the line there or you can reason that didn't stop you in the past to, say, have your appendix removed.
General anesthesia burdens your body. When I insisted on general anesthesia myself in an entirely different procedure, my surgeon warned me it would take me more time to recuperate afterwards compared to undergoing the same procedure with an epidural. It simply adds to what your body needs to process when healing. Local anesthesia is also favored by some to have the patient able to move and, if need be, stand to assess the evenness of the result. On the other hand, the prospect of enduring the procedure wide awake can be stressfull. Maybe too stressfull for some.
If you are to opt for general anesthesia, you may need to look a little harder for a suitable surgeon. Many clinics can't or won't offer general anesthesia. It requires additional facilities, knowledge and assistance during the procedure. If not that, some surgeons truly want you awake to monitor your wellbeing themselves and have you participating by moving during the procedure.
Pre-op and post-op care
What is being checked and looked into to dertermine you are a suitable candidate? Is it thorough? Do you have a good feeling about this? Do you know the basics and were provided with information on how to prepare for the procedure, what to expect and how to arrange care post-op? How can you reach the clinic when you (feel) you need to? What if post-op complications arise? Who covers these expenses? Where can you turn to? This is particularly relevant if your surgeon is far from your home and you travel back soon after the procedure. At the same time: don't wait to be asked about specifics. Share your medical history and use of medication in detail.
Do inform your primary, even if he/she doesn't support the idea. Make sure they understand what you embark on so they can help in case of problems.
Obvious stuff? Sadly no. I still read about questions like: "Is it normal to still have swelling after a week" and "Is it normal the cuts ooze". That's basic stuff. You should be told about this sort of thing in advance.
In rare cases the procedure is covered. Ask around on forum if someone from your country managed to get it covered and what they did. Even if the odds are slim, consider trying. Health Insurance companies need to become aware of lipedema and liposuction as a serious treatment option.
Also, think how far you want to take this. Going ahead with the surgery while still butting heads with your health insurance may ruin your chances of coverage. It may also lead to a road where you can't have the procedure done by your surgeon of your choice. Ask around. Patient forums on for instance Facebook are a wonderful source of practical information.