GPSLipo® or LipoControl is a form of laser-assisted lipolysis that features a magnetic tracking system that can detect the position and movement of a metal cannula equipped with a laser fiber. This device displays the location and amount of energy delivered to the treatment area in real time. Patients who are candidates for laser liposuction are also candidates for this treatment, as LipoControl is simply an assistive imaging tool for the surgeon.
How Does GPSLipo Work?
When the laser, fiber-equipped cannula is introduced under the skin, a line appears on an electronic screen, following the path of the metal tube. As the cannula continues to be inserted and withdrawn from the treatment area in the classic back and forth movement to disrupt and remove fat, the initial line builds up into a pattern of overlapping lines that form a latticework design on the screen. The amount of energy released into the fatty tissue by the laser cannula is indicated by the color of the line, ranging from blue through purple and red all the way up to yellow and white as the area heats up more and more.
Using this setup, a plastic surgeon can see:
- What areas have received the ideal amount of laser energy
- What areas need more treatment (additional passes with the cannula)
- What areas are at risk for developing burns from overexposure
The equipment can automatically adjust the amount of laser power emitted based on how fast or slow the surgeon is moving the cannula. The laser fiber tip shuts off if the cannula stops moving.
Misconceptions About GPSLipo
This device does not feature any kind of actual GPS (global positioning system). The acronym GPS refers to a satellite-based navigation system that can pinpoint the location and track the movement of objects on the surface of planet Earth. This liposuction tracking device simply uses a magnetic sensor system to locate the position of the cannula within a predefined treatment area. The term “GPS” used for this device is just a marketing brand name. It does not indicate that the equipment is more precise or less precise than actual GPS technology.
The “GPS” device is not used to actually locate fatty deposits under the skin. The treatment area is determined using traditional methods (visually and by feel). The desired treatment area is outlined on the patient’s skin with a marker as usual. After this, a special electronic pen is used to outline the same area so the size, shape and location of the treatment site are uploaded to the LipoControl device positioned over the patient. On the monitor, the tracking system only displays this selected treatment area, the path of the cannula and the amount of energy delivered. It does not differentiate between types of tissue.
Comparing GPSLipo to Alternative Lipo Treatments
In order to understand the marketing claims for this procedure, patients need to understand the other types of liposuction available. The term “traditional liposuction” refers to an outdated procedure that involves putting the patient under general anesthesia and performing very invasive fat removal without injecting the “tumescing” medications that numb the area, cause the tissue to swell and become easier to work with and reduce the amount of bleeding involved. The risk of complications is high, the results are poor and the recovery is lengthy and painful. Fortunately, virtually no plastic surgeons use this technique in the United States today. Therefore, comparing Controlled Laser Assisted Lipolysis (CLAL) to “traditional” or original liposuction is misleading.
Tumescent liposuction is the standard for treatment today. This approach does involve introducing a mix of saline, epinephrine and Lidocaine into the treatment area. This is an outpatient procedure that has modest downtime, low risks and good results (although the skill of the surgeon and the volume of fat removed can play a role in risks and outcomes). All forms of “assisted” liposuction, including laser and ultrasound use tumescing medications. As of 2012, laser-assisted liposuction has not been demonstrated as superior to regular liposuction in direct comparison studies in large-scale, multi-center clinical trials.
Plastic surgeons hold strongly differing opinions about whether lasers provide better results or less postoperative discomfort/complications compared to regular liposuction. Benefits of Laser-Assited Lipolysis (LAL) such as visible skin tightening are often reported by medical practitioners who own and use laser devices in their practice. However, patients should ask to see actual data to support claims that LAL is superior to other forms of liposuction. They should also bear in mind that the experience and skill level of the plastic surgeon is typically a better predictor of outcomes than the type of equipment used.
CLAL with GPSLipo Equipment vs. Laser-Assisted Lipo
CLAL has been compared LAL in a direct-comparison study involving 25 patients. One side of each patient’s body was treated using LAL. The treatment area was tracked using the LipoControl device but the screen was not visible to the surgeon. The other side of the patient’s body was treated using the full functionality of the LipoControl device so the surgeon could use the feedback to adjust his or her technique.
The data collected showed that laser energy was delivered more evenly with the LipoControl enabled. The amount of excess energy delivered was lower, indicating a lowered risk for localized burns. The even distribution left fewer spots undertreated, indicating a lowered risk of asymmetry. Forty-eight percent of patients reported no difference in tenderness between the two sides. Thirty-eight percent reported less tenderness on the LipoControl side, and 14 percent reported less tenderness on the LAL side. Further studies are needed to confirm these results and assess aesthetic outcomes.