What is Laser Liposuction?
As the name would suggest, laser lipo (or laser-assisted liposuction) uses a laser to melt subcutaneous fat before it is suctioned from the body. Laser liposuction is often considered to be safer, gentler, and less invasive method of fat removal as compared to traditional methods. This is due to the use of local anesthesia and small instruments, which makes for little to no downtime.
Laser liposuction body contouring procedures are designed for — and provides the best outcomes to —patients who are within 20-25 pounds of their ideal body weight and who have concentrated areas of fat that are resistant to diet and exercise. Laser liposuction is often used to sculpt areas such as the thighs, abdomen, hips, waist, bra fat, flanks, chin, and upper arms.
How Laser Liposuction Works
During a laser liposuction procedure, energy is delivered through a laser fiber that is threaded through a narrow cannula under the patient’s skin. As the laser pulses, its energy is converted to heat energy which is absorbed by the fat cells, causing them the melt. This heat is also absorbed by the surrounding skin tissue, which stimulates collagen production that results in skin tightening around the treated area. This process also protects the skin from excess tissue trauma, leading to less bruising and swelling than with traditional methods.
Treatment and recovery time of these methods are comparable. Most surgeons use local anesthesia to numb the treatment area, however some use twilight sedation, though it is not necessary and does introduce its own risks. Depending on the area treated, the procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours, followed by a few days of recovery time. Bruising and swelling will vary from person to person, but patients should expect some swelling for several weeks post procedure.
Types of Laser Liposuction Devices
SmartLipo Triplex from Cynosure is a body contouring process known to be especially effective at skin tightening. In fact, it is the only technology on the market that has real clinical data supporting its skin tightening claim. Smartlipo has also had several improvements since its inception, as it was the first laser liposuction procedure to be approved by the FDA in 2006.
The Smartlipo Triplex machine utilizes three wavelengths of laser: 1064nm, 1320nm and the 1440nm. Each of these wavelengths has a different job. The Smartlipo Triplex also has built in safety features like the thermaguide, which is attached to the laser and measures the internal temperature as it pulses. This reduces the incidence of burns, as the laser will deactivate if it reaches a certain temperature. Again, procedure time is anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours and recovery lasts 1-3 days.
Understanding the Differences & Benefits
The cannula, once in place, emits short pulses of high-peak YAG laser energy at 1320 nm. CoolLipo offers a dual mode one for liposuction and the other for skin tightening. This procedure is performed under local anesthesia, and depending on the area, will last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Downtime is minimal, lasting just a few days.
Sciton’s version employs a dual wavelength capacity laser at 1064 nm and 1319 nm, which can be used individually or custom-combined for optimum results. The 1064 nm wavelength is chosen for breaking up fat; the 1319 nm tightens the skin. The procedure takes a few hours and recovery time lasts several days.
Like SmartLipo, Syneron’s LipoLite uses a 1064 nm wavelength YAG laser, but adds SelectPulse technology to deliver custom-controlled and timed energy pulses. This allows it to better treat areas that are fibrous or have more resistant tissue, and helps destroy fat cell membranes. The procedure lasts under an hour with local anesthetic and recovery time is just a few days.
Osyris’ Lipotherme uses a 980 nm wavelength diode continuous-wave laser to liquefy the fat cells before removing them with suction. Like the others, this procedure takes 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on the size and number of areas being treated, and the recovery period is a few days.