I would like to spend some time on the various topics surrounding the ever growing field of fat reduction. Fat reduction is one of the most sought after treatments in our practice and in many plastic surgery and dermatological practices who offer fat reduction procedures. There are several new technologies available that are specific to fat reduction. Many of these technologies are non-surgical in nature, and a few are surgical. The standard by which all fat reduction procedures need to be measured against is traditional liposuction. Traditional liposuction has been around for several years and with the addition of tumescent solution to the liposuction procedure, liposuction is an extremely safe and effective procedure. Non-surgical techniques have several advantages compared to traditional liposuction. The procedures are either painless or very close to pain free. There is no associated recovery period following the procedure and the risks associated with most of the new noninvasive fat reduction technologies are nearly nonexistent. The most important item the provider needs to address with patients seeking noninvasive fat reduction procedures is to set realistic expectations. Though the technologies currently available have improved significantly in their ability to reduce areas of unwanted fat, these technologies do not even come close to the amount of fat and the degree of body contouring that traditional liposuction affords.
So if the results of traditional liposuction are so fantastic, why would anyone elect to commit to the expense of any other procedure? The answer mostly has to do with the fact that traditional liposuction is a real surgical procedure with all of the risks, potential complications, and recovery time associated with invasive surgical procedures. So what researchers set out to do was to create a procedure whose results would be equal to those of the “gold standard”, traditional liposuction, without the down time, pain, and associated risks of general anesthesia present in traditional liposuction. What researchers came up with was laser lipolysis or laser liposuction. Laser liposuction can produce the results seen with traditional liposuction with minimal downtime, very few surgical risks, and a procedure which is performed under local anesthesia with a mild oral sedative.
The laser liposuction procedure is performed by inserting a small spaghetti sized laser probe under the skin into the areas that are pre operatively marked for fat excess. Laser energy whose favorite target is fat is delivered to these excess fats in precise, predetermined amounts of energy, which melts the fat into a liquid form. The laser which I currently use, the Slimlipo technology, also has the additional benefit of having a second laser beam whose favorite target is the collagen of the skin. While one laser beam is melting fat, the second laser beam is actually mildly damaging the skin at the undersurface of the skin, which results in fairly dramatic skin tightening in the areas where fat has been removed, reducing the amount of sagging skin. After the appropriate amount of laser energy is delivered to the fat during laser lipolysis and the areas of excess fat are effectively treated, the liquefied fat is gently suctioned from underneath the skin. Where traditional liposuction required avulsion of the fat which the patient would like reduced. Laser liposuction requires suctioning of liquefied fat that result in significantly less trauma to the areas where laser liposuction was performed. Needless to say, this translates into significantly less swelling and bruising than traditional liposuction, and more importantly, a recovery time to casual activity in days, compared to weeks for traditional liposuction.