You may have heard about laser liposuction, also known as Smart Lipo, which is often touted in the media as the “latest and greatest,” “different and better,” and “next generation” in liposuction. While all of this might sound good, it’s best to proceed with caution and do some research before committing to any type of lipo procedure. This advice also holds true when considering any form of cosmetic surgery.
With regard to laser liposuction, the procedure is being marketed – quite effectively – with promises of minimal bleeding, bruising, and down time. While these claims might be accurate, it is important to be aware that they are more correctly associated with the general tumescent liposuction technique, which may or may not be performed with laser assistance. In general, tumescent liposuction performed under local anesthesia with small cannulas is gentler on a patient’s body than traditional liposuction, and this holds true whether or not a laser device is utilized during the procedure.
What is laser liposuction?
Essentially, laser liposuction is performed with the assistance of a very thin laser cannula, which targets the superficial fat layer and melts the fat so that it can be more easily vacuumed out of the body with a regular suctioning cannula. It is notable that not all surgeons have found this pre-melting of fat to be beneficial. There are other procedures and devices, such as power-assisted liposuction (PAL) and ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL), that can effectively soften fat to facilitate its removal without the use of a laser (which can significantly add to the cost of the procedure).
Advocates of laser liposuction also suggest that it can create a mild degree of skin tightening that does not occur when a surgeon uses a suction cannula alone. Any skin tightening that might result from laser lipo is related to the contraction of the skin in response to injury, as well as the formation of new collagen that occurs during the skin’s normal repair process. This can sometimes benefit patients who have mild skin laxity prior to surgery or following the removal of a significant amount of fat. However, it will not help a patient who has very loose skin to begin with. In any case, the skin tightening effect is modest at best, and is not completely predictable due to variances in individual responses to skin injury and the subsequent stimulation of collagen formation (as part of the natural aging process, skin cells gradually lose their capacity to generate new collagen).
A further consideration is that, when a surgeon uses a laser to melt fat, there is a very small margin for error. The temperature of the laser must be carefully monitored because, if it is too high, side effects like burns can result. As such, it is important to work with a qualified surgeon who is highly skilled and experienced in performing laser liposuction.
Consult with a Board Certified Surgeon
If you are considering liposuction, be wary of advertisements that focus solely on the fact that a surgeon has access to the latest-generation lasers or other tools. It’s highly likely that such a surgeon only recently acquired the device and performed just a few procedures with it prior to placing the advertisements. When consulting with a prospective surgeon, always confirm that he or she is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and ask to see sample photos of his or her work.
Katie Perry is an online content editor in the Tampa Bay area. She posts articles about plastic surgery topics and procedures including liposuction
and other cosmetic surgeries.