Adipose tissue precursor cells (pre-adipocytes) are part of a stromal vascular fraction that can be easily isolated from fat tissue. Adipose tissue can be harvested by 2 methods: aspiration and excision. We analyzed whether the pre-adipocyte yield, growth characteristics and ability to differentiate into mature adipose tissue are influenced by the type of harvesting procedure. Adipose tissue was simultaneously harvested from the abdomen by surgical excision or aspiration according to the Coleman procedure in 10 individuals. This permitted inter- and intra-individual comparisons. Cell viability and yield were determined directly after isolation of pre-adipocytes. The growth kinetics were investigated in culture. Furthermore, pre-adipocytes were cultured under adipogenic conditions to compare their differentiation potential. The number of viable pre-adipocytes was significantly higher after excision of adipose tissue compared to aspiration. The proliferation kinetic was not influenced by the type of harvesting. No differences were observed in the differentiation potential of the pre-adipocytes between both groups. Compared to excision, aspiration of adipose tissue negatively affects the yield of pre-adipocytes. However, growth characteristics and differentiation potential of viable cultured cells are not influenced by the type of surgical harvesting. Due to its reduced donor site morbidity, we conclude that aspiration of adipose tissue is a valid harvesting method for isolation of pre-adipocytes.