By Lois W. Stern, Editor-at-Large, Makemeheal.com
With the many innovations of modern day plastic surgery, none seems to be gaining in popularity more rapidly than a variety of emerging technologies for the removal of unwanted body fat. Although diet and exercise remain the first line of defense against weight gain, when it comes to eliminating stubborn pockets of fat, these strategies often have fallen short of expectations. Enter modern day fat removal technologies.
With increasing interest in issues of health and beauty, it is little wonder that a number of plastic surgery technologies have stepped up to the plate to meet popular demand, while addressing America’s fixation with the battle of the bulge. According to statistics gathered by the ASAPS (American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery), last year lipoplasty (liposuction) ranked second in frequency of all surgical procedures performed in the United States with a total of 309,692 lipoplasty procedures. Within this number, 90% were performed on women, a figure consistent with the overall gender ranking for all surgical procedures.
Although tumescent liposuction is still an effective procedure for the removal of large fat deposits, one of the disadvantages of this procedure is its tendency to leave behind unattractive, loose skin. This is where Smartlipo, an innovative laser-assisted device, enters the playing field. It is also one of the reasons it is rapidly becoming the gold standard for the removal of unwanted body fat. In some cases, Smartlipo, also known as lipolysis, is being used as a viable substitute for tumescent liposuction. In other cases, where larger amounts of body fat are involved, Smartlipo is being effectively employed as a complement to traditional liposuction by helping surgeons tighten the loose skin left behind from a tumescent liposuction procedure.
Typically, areas treated effectively through Smart Lipo technology include the chin and neck areas, inner and outer thighs, knees, abdomen, upper arms, hips, “bra fat”, “love handles“, and male breasts.
Before/After Photos Courtesy of Dr. Barry DiBarnardo
How Smartlipo Works
Board certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Alan Kisner, explains how Smart Lipo works:
“Normally the patient is injected with a local anesthesia before the lipolysis procedure. Treatment begins when the surgeon inserts a micro-cannula (tiny tube) about the size of a thick syringe needle into the skin. The tiny incision made for the entrance of the cannula is so small that no stitches are required after the procedure.“
“A three hundred to six hundred micron optical fiber is placed within this micro-
cannula, which is approximately 1.0 mm to 2.0 mm in diameter. This optical fiber extends two mm beyond the cannula. Because the aiming beam is very bright, it is visible through the skin, enabling the surgeon to see exactly where he is working. The laser causes small blood vessels to coagulate immediately, keeping bleeding, swelling and bruising normally associated with traditional fat removal techniques to a minimum.“
“As the surgeon moves this cannula in a slow, fan-like motion through various depths of fat tissue, the optic fiber delivers laser energy in short pulses, which heat the targeted fat cells in the top layers of the patient’s skin. These fat cells rupture and liquefy. The resultant oily liquid substance is then removed with another micro-cannula.“
Of particular significance with any fat melting technique lies a concern for what happens to that fat as it is melted within the body. With Smartlipo, research has shown that little if any fat is reabsorbed into the body.
Further benefits of Smartlipo include both its potential for stimulating the formation of new collagen and for its reduction of cellulite.
During treatment, controlled wounding results in stimulation of new cells under the patient’s skin, which is thought to produce new collagen. Furthermore, the thermal energy within the dermis causes shrinkage of the fat cells residing between the collagen fibers (the bands that keep our skin tight and in place). When fat cells are removed from between these bands, it may result in reduction of cellulite.
Before/After Photos Courtesy of Dr. Jeff Schafer
Before/After Photos Courtesy of Dr. Bruce Katz
Recovery After Smartlipo
The recovery period after a Smartlipo procedure is brief and relatively painless. Patients are typically sent home within one hour after the completion of the procedure with compression bandages to prevent affected tissues from shifting. In some cases, surgeons recommend that the patient wear a compression garment for a short period of time during recovery. Minor bruising and numbness occur after the procedure, but disappear within days after leaving the recovery room. Swelling is normally observable for the first week and gradually tapers off thereafter. Normally one is able to return to work within two to three days and is able to resume exercise and full activities after two weeks. Results become visible within one week, with continued improvement noted over a three to six month period.
Improvements in Smartlipo Technology
The first Smartlipo design was pioneered in Europe and South America beginning in the year 2000. In November, 2006, it became the first laser assisted liposuction technology approved by the FDA. Made by Cynosure, the original Smartlipo machine has already undergone improvement to increase its effectiveness. The newer model, the Smartlipo MPX, employs 2 lasers: the 1064 to treat the deeper fat and 1032 laser to tighten the skin. This model also incorporates some practical innovations in response to plastic surgeon input. Early models worked effectively but slowly, causing considerable surgeon fatigue. As surgeons expressed a need for a model that would work more rapidly, Cynosure searched for a solution, which they amusingly reached while observing the Wii Video Game system in action. Noting how the Wii chip responded to the speed and motion of the user’s arm while swinging a tennis racket or tossing a bowling ball, Cynosure was inspired to develop and insert a similar chip into their latest Smartlipo design, to respond to the speed and motion of the surgeon’s arm during the lipolysis procedure.
Smartlipo costs will vary depending upon the surgeon performing the procedure, the surgeon’s experience and location as well as the size of the areas to be treated. Although costs for Smartlipo tend to be a slightly higher than those of other modern liposuction techniques, other factors likely to reduce the overall cost need to be considered, including lower anesthesia and recovery charges. Another factor worth considering is the shortened recovery time following Smartlipo due to minimal tissue trauma, which spells less time lost from work.
Look for Dr. Kisner’s chapter, When Diet and Exercise Aren’t Enough, with his amazing before/after photographs in my about-to-be-published book, Tick Tock, Stop the Clock – Getting Pretty on Your Lunch Hour.
Lois W. Stern, Editor-At-Large at Makemeheal.com, is a beauty expert and author of Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery and Tick Tock Stop the Clock. Lois and Patty Kovacs are the co-founders of Coast to Coast – Eye on Beauty Newsletter.