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Techniques

Cosmetic surgery is a multi-billion dollar industry, with about 13.8 million surgical and minimally-invasive procedures performed in the United States in 2011 alone. This statistic from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) clearly highlights the growth in this particular sector of the medical field, specifically the realm of minimally invasive techniques. Liposuction is by far one of the most common and popular cosmetic procedures in the U.S. and also the latest application to see significant advances.

Laser liposuction is the most recent method designed and developed to remove fat by utilizing laser technology. It involves the use of a laser beam which quickly dissolves the excess fat and tightens the skin virtually anywhere in the body. Laser lipo basically liquefies fat so it is easier to remove with the help of suction tubes. The procedure is usually performed in an outpatient facility with the use of a local anesthetic.

The cosmetic surgeon marks the target area and then makes a small incision on the patient's skin. A cannula is inserted into the incision then a laser head is guided to the area requiring treatment. The laser head is turned on and emits beams of specific wavelength. Heat is generated during the process, emulsifying the excess fat, which is then removed through a suction cannula. The laser also triggers the formation of collagen, which aids in skin regeneration in the affected area. Any remaining fat is naturally absorbed by the body and eliminated through the lymphatic system.

How Laser Lipo differs from other Lipo Techniques

Laser liposuction is considered as a surgical breakthrough as it is less traumatic, less invasive and less risky when compared to traditional liposuction techniques. Laser lipo is less physically traumatic because it requires smaller incisions, smaller cannulas (usually one-fourth smaller), and a local instead of general anesthesia.

The laser is directed specifically towards the fats cells, while traditional liposuction is less selective. The laser beam heats and dissolves the fat, causing much less tissue damage and fewer side effects like bruising and swelling. The laser also coagulates the blood, thereby reducing the risk of bleeding. In addition, by emulsifying fat, the skin becomes smoother, tighter and there is less risk of developing cellulite, which is a common side effect of traditional liposuction.

Since the procedure is gentle and more focused, laser lipo is able to target areas of the body that traditional liposuction techniques cannot. It can effectively treat localized fat pockets in the chin, underarm, neck, and other areas that pose serious risks if traditional liposuction will be used to remove the unwanted fat. You can also expect minimal pain and discomfort which only lasts 24 to 48 hours. Finally, healing time is faster and an immediate return to daily activities is guaranteed. In fact, most patients are able to return to work in as little as 24 hours.

Types of Laser Liposuction

Since it made its debut five years ago, laser liposuction has been widely accepted as an effective means of fat removal. Moreover, there have been significant advances as well as variations in the equipment used. Below is a comprehensive discussion of the different types of laser lipo that have been introduced in various medical facilities across the U.S:

SmartLipo

SmartLipo is the first laser-assisted form of liposuction which had been pioneered in Europe. Manufactured by Cynosure Inc. of Westford Massachusetts, SmartLipo gained the approval of the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and was immediately touted as a state-of-the-art procedure in cosmetic surgery. The SmartLipo system provides all the benefits of a top-notch laser lipolysis system along with the distinct advantage of experience in the market. It has been thoroughly tested and proven effective. Hence, it is now a well-established technology with a sterling reputation and one of the undisputed leaders in laser-assisted lipolysis.

The SmartLipo procedure involves the use of a small cannula and a powerful laser which delivers accurate targeting of even small parts of the body. Therefore, the doctor can target fat pockets that will otherwise be inaccessible and untreatable with traditional liposuction. The laser not only emulsifies the fat and aids in its removal; it also makes small blood vessels coagulate quickly, thereby reducing bruising and blood loss. In addition, the laser also stimulates collagen production which is ideal for tightening the skin after the excess fat has been dissolved and removed from the body.

SmartLipo is frequently performed along with cellulite treatments and it can be used with a local anesthetic. This reduces health complications and side effects from general anesthesia. Another interesting feature is that different wavelengths of the laser produce optimal results. For instance, it has been found that the 1064 nm wavelength is excellent for melting fat cells while lasers with 1320 nm wavelength have been proven to be the ideal for stimulating collagen production.

Cynosure is now offering three SmartLipo workstations which have been tailored to different patient needs. First is the original SmartLipo which is available in three wattages. Second is the SmartLipo MPX which combines different laser wavelengths for the best results. It allows doctors to use both 1064 nm and 1320 nm wavelengths for optimum fat removal and tightening of the skin through coagulation. The third is the SmartLipo Triplex which utilizes the 1440 nm in addition to the 1064 nm and 1320 nm. The 1440 nm wavelength was integrated to the Triplex due to its rapid absorption of fatty tissues.

LipoTherme and LipoControl

LipoTherme is a laser lipolysis technology developed by Osyris Medical. It is a safe and minimally invasive technique that utilizes a laser to liquefy and remove fat in certain areas of the body. Aside from removing excess fat, the thermal effect of LipoTherme causes the skin to contract, resulting in a firmer and smoother appearance which further improves patients' body shaping objectives.

Heat has been traditionally used as an adjunct in the treatment of some diseases and to promote overall health. LipoTherme is a ground-breaking technique which maximizes the power of laser to generate heat to selectively dissolve unwanted fat and reshape the body. Lipo refers fat, and therme pertains to heat; so LipoTherme is basically the application of low doses of heat to emulsify fat.

During initial consultation, the surgeon will discuss the procedure and help you set realistic expectations. At the same time, the surgeon will conduct a Body Mass Index (BMI) test. The result of which will be used along with other medical information to ascertain the potential outcomes that you can expect. Majority of patients report positive outcomes after the procedure, although the results vary depending on several factors including age, BMI, hormones, and other health indicators.

The procedure involves the insertion of a specially designed cannula under the skin. The cosmetic surgeon then directs a laser beam to the target area as the cannula is moved back and forth. As the laser beam warms the fatty deposits, it produces a thermal effect. Fat cells are known to be very receptive to heat, so they liquefied during the process. The surgeon then aspirates or suctions the liquefied fat cells from the body.

LipoTherme uses a 980 nm wavelength to emulsify fatty deposits under the skin. It offers precision and control so cosmetic surgeons can target even the smallest pockets of fat. But the most significant innovation that Osyris Medical has introduced to the market is their LipoControl technology, which is used in tandem with LipoTherme treatment. LipoControl offers a real time screen image of the target area, so surgeons can visualize precisely where they are and what they are doing. The procedure utilizes heat imaging in order to map the exact location of the cannula and laser inside it. As the surgeon moves the cannula beneath the skin, the power of the laser strengthens and weakens, and the moment the surgeon stops the movement, LipoControl will deactivate and turn off the laser.

The combination of LipoTherme and LipoControl offers the best results to patients. This type of laser liposuction is ideal for small areas such as the face, neck, parts of the abdomen, back and arms. Just like other laser liposuction techniques, LipoTherme and LipoControl can be performed as outpatient procedures and require the use of a local anesthetic.

SlimLipo

SlimLipo is a cutting-edge laser lipolysis system which delivers a fat-melting laser wavelength that liquefies fatty pockets for easier removal through a suction device. It can selectively target areas using 924 nm and 975 nm wavelengths to efficiently "melt" fatty tissue while achieving optimum skin retraction. SlimLipo also allows cosmetic surgeons to achieve body contouring with smaller incisions, less bruising, blood loss and deformities.

The procedure can be performed in a clinical or hospital setting and only local anesthesia is required, so the patient is awake and experiences only minimal discomfort during the treatment session. After administering the anesthetic, the cosmetic surgeon inserts a flexible treatment tip that moves easily through fibrous tissues and curved areas. The laser then starts to liquefy fat cells while tightening the surrounding skin. The treatment session takes as little as an hour to complete. No sutures are required so there are no disfiguring and unsightly scars on the treated area. The gentle melting of fat also gives patients smoother results with minimal skin irregularities and contour deformities that are usually visible with traditional liposuction and other laser-assisted lipolysis systems.

The most commonly treated areas include the chin, neck, abdomen, love handles, upper and lower back, inner and outer thighs, buttocks and the upper arms. The best candidates for SlimLipo are patients with a Body Mass Index below 33 and those with fatty deposits that are resistant to both diet and exercise. In most cases, patients are able to return to work within a day or two after treatment. There can be mild swelling but it should subside within a week. Those with pain or feel sore can take over-the-counter analgesics. A compression garment has to be worn during the first week.

Depending on the treated area, you can expect to see improvements on your skin and body contour once the swelling subsides. In general, there will be apparent changes just a couple of weeks after the treatment. The improvements will continue over a six-month period. Note that the fat cells are completely removed but you need to maintain a sensible diet and exercise program to achieve permanent results. Otherwise you may gain excessive weight and the remaining fat can enlarge and redistribute in the body.

CoolLipo

CoolLipo is a form of laser-assisted lipolysis that liquefies fat for easy removal. It breaks up fat cells in areas like the face, chin, neck and jowls as well as sites with loose skin like the arms. CoolLipo utilizes a 1320 nm wavelength to emulsify fat and directly contract collagen, thereby tightening the skin. CoolTouch Inc., the product manufacturer, claims that the short pulse length, higher power output and the 1320 nm wavelength make their system the best option for laser-assisted lipolysis.

The short pulse lenghth breaks down a lot more tissue but with less collateral damage. The high power output results into a more effective fat liquefaction, while the 1320 nm wavelength effectively targets water in connective tissue to stimulate collagen formation and induce a skin tightening effect. In addition CoolTouch asserts that the1320 nm wavelength is absorbed more by fat cells, thus delivering better results than similar products with lower wavelengths. The CoolLipo was approved by the U.S. FDA in 2008 and it has also been approved for other forms of skin treatment.

Those who wish to remove excess fat in small areas are good candidates for the procedure. The ideal areas to treat are those where fat pockets tend to stay even after exercise. The procedure can be performed in the cosmetic surgeon's clinic using local anesthesia. This reduces the cost of the procedure as well as the accompanying risks.

The procedure starts with the surgeon cleansing the target area and injecting a local anesthetic. Once the area is numb, the laser is inserted under the skin and energy is directed to the specific areas where fat is to be dissolved. The surgeon then moves the laser from one area to another to break down the fat cells in different sites. The laser also stimulates collagen production and simultaneously tightens the skin. The procedure normally takes between one and three hours to complete, depending on the area that requires treatment.

As for the recovery from CoolLipo, it is actually simple and fast. A compressive bandage or dressing may be worn around the treatment area for protection and to facilitate the healing process. The compressing dressing is usually worn for two to three days, after which patients have little discomfort or mild bruising. Most patients are able to return to work the following day. The results are visible right after completion of the procedure and patients will notice that the treated area is tighter than before. However, the full results may take a couple of months to emerge.

ProLipo

ProLipo is a minimally invasive laser-assisted lipolysis procedure from Sciton Inc. of Palo Alto, California. It has been approved by the FDA and can be used as a stand-alone procedure or in combination with other liposuction treatment modalities. ProLipo on requires the use of tumescent anesthesia instead of general anesthesia or intravenous sedation. This allows for minimal downtime and shorter recovery period. In general, most patients return to normal daily activities within a day or two after the treatment session.

When used alone or in conjunction with tumescent liposuction, ProLipo is well-suited for treatment of body areas including the chin, cheek, jowls, neck, upper back, upper arms, abdomen, hips, things, buttocks and knees. Anyone in good health but with localized fatty deposits that are unresponsive to diet and exercise can undergo the procedure.

Just like other laser-liposuction techniques, ProLipo makes use of a laser inside a cannula to dissolve fat cells. The procedure starts with the injection of a dilute local anesthetic containing epinephrine into the target area. Once it is numb, the surgeon inserts the cannula housing the laser fiber through a small incision on the skin. When the system is activated, laser energy is absorbed by the fat cells, resulting into their death and destruction. The laser is also responsible for skin tightening through the remodeling and production of dermal collagen. The treatment session normally takes 1 to 4 hours to complete, depending on the size and number of areas requiring treatment.

What's remarkable about the ProLipo system is that it offers multiple wavelengths as the procedure is being performed. This allows the cosmetic surgeon to use the appropriate wavelength for individual conditions and for specific body parts. ProLipo utilizes two wavelengths: 1064 and 1319 nm. The former is used to dissolve the fat cells while the latter is effective for inducing collagen regeneration and skin tightening. It can also be used in combination with the 1064 nm wavelength or each can be used individually. This unique capability to use separate or combined wavelengths gives surgeons the much needed flexibility and precision, allowing them to deliver outstanding results to patients.

With regard to the recovery process, patients may experience mild pain and a little bruising after the treatment session. Taking analgesics for a few days usually provide enough pain relief. Compression dressing/garment must be worn for about a week to reduce bruising, swelling and discomfort. Majority of patients resume normal daily activities within 1 to 2 days after the treatment session.

LipoLite

LipoLite is a minimally invasive system designed to break down fat cells and coagulate tissue on the face and body at depths of 5 to 20 mm. The system is perfect for certain areas that are tough to treat using traditional liposuction, such as the upper arms and the area under the chin. But in general, LipoLite is frequently used for treating the face, neck, abdomen, things, bra line and male chest.

Introduced by Syneron, LipoLite differs from other laser liposuction techniques thanks to its SelectPulse technology which allows cosmetic surgeons to deliver either short pulses of low energy or long pulses of high energy, depending on the body part being treated. This means LipoLite provides accurate and maximum control over the pulse energy and rate of repetition to optimize the photo-thermal and photo-mechanical destruction of fat cells, thereby giving patients the best possible results.

The technique utilizes the 1064 nm wavelength to dissolve and remove fatty deposits under the skin. It is often used as an adjunct to other body contouring systems or procedures because it can treat smaller areas which traditional liposuction cannot. As a matter of fact, a lot of surgeons use traditional liposuction techniques to treat large areas of the body and then follow up with LipoLite. The system is so effective that it can even treat pockets of sagging skin that are usually left behind by liposuction.

Similar to other laser lipo treatments, LipoLite is performed as an outpatient procedure using local anesthesia. It can be done in the surgeon's clinic and the procedure normally takes 30 to 60 minutes for each area being treated. The 1064 nm wavelength laser is delivered through an optic fiber inside a special cannula which is inserted under the skin through a tiny incision. The thermal energy produced also provides for tissue tightening by stimulating dermal collagen production. With only a single treatment session, you can expect to return to work and normal activities in two days, but you'll continue to see improvements for the next six to eight weeks.

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