The news has been full of reports on laser liposuction techniques and it is important to understand what these techniques are and what they can, and can not, do. In the past, there has been a technique called laser-assisted liposuction which uses a laser applied to the skin to “melt” the fat after which a traditional suction cannula (straw) is used to suck out the melted fat. This technique is, in my opinion, total malarkey and is very similar to the N-Lite mentioned in the Winter 2005 media letter – it is a laser with no good use looking for a home. In these cases, the suction cannula is doing the work and the laser is there only to raise the fee charged by the surgeon.
A newer laser liposuction, also known as SmartLipo, has come on the market and has at least some value as a liposuction procedure. This procedure uses a laser that is actually put into the skin to lase, or melt, the fat. The liquefied fat is then removed with a small cannula just like in regular liposuction, or it can remain behind and get absorbed by the body. A possible additional benefit is that the laser might help the skin tighten up after the fat removal and avoid a cellulite type appearance that can occur after liposuction.
There are several problems with the new laser liposuction procedure. The amount of fat that is removed is usually significantly less than what is taken out in standard suction liposuction, so only small areas with mild fat deposits are treated well. Also, traditional liposuction must be used in addition to the laser liposuction to get out the fat in larger cases. Finally, the laser tightening of the skin is totally unproven and may not actually take place. Once again, sometimes lasers are looking for a home and a purpose and it is important to see the results of early trials before trying a procedure for yourself.