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What is laser liposuction?

Author: Letty's Staff Writer

Lasers are everywhere.

Really – I mean everywhere, in cars, watches, phones, computers... you name it.

So, it should come as no shock or surprise that lasers are in liposuction surgery too.

This article aims to discuss lasers and the impact they have on lipo surgery... what benefits they offer aaaannnd what challenges they present.

First things first...

What do you mean by 'laser liposuction'?

When I did the research for this article I wasn't exactly sure what laser liposuction was.

Like many of you when I thought about laser lipo I had in mind some sort of device that blasted fat without much effort (and definitely no kind of blood loss)... Turns out I wasn't too far from the mark actually.

There are really two categories of laser lipolysis procedures.

  1. One type combines lasers with traditional liposuction surgery.
  2. The other type of laser treatment doesn't involve surgery at all.

A. Lasers with traditional liposuction surgery.

Let's talk about the combined laser treatment first (type #1).

This kind of procedure recognizes the limits of traditional liposuction and attempts to address it. Traditional liposuction is really for patients with small pockets of localized fat. These individuals are typically within 15-20% of their ideal body weight. And - most importantly - these people generally have really good skin elasticity.

This last point tends to limit the scope of traditional liposuction.

There are many, many people out there who don't have perfect skin elasticity but who would otherwise be excellent candidates for liposuction surgery.

People who are middle-aged or older, or perhaps you are a women who's had a child or two and your skin just doesn't retract like it once did. Or maybe folks who've lost a bit of weight and have a little more fat and skin left in places than they would like.

Within limits lasers may be a potential solution this problem.

  • How lasers with traditional lipo works:

    This type of liposuction really begins with traditional liposuction performed under local anesthesia. The difference is that the equipment is altered to include a laser probe.

    The laser is a high energy light source set to a frequency which disrupts the fatty tissue layer – in essence "melting" it. Next the liposuction tube gently suctions off the melted fat into plastic containers. Some of the fat is also squeezed or carefully drained out of the incisions – like oozing blood.

    The laser probe can either be built into the suctioning device – or may be a separate tool.

    In one case the laser treatment occurs during the actual liposuction – "a little melting, a little suctioning... and again a little melting, etc." In the second case the laser treatment occurs in a step before the actual liposuction. So, first the laser is applied throughout the area and then the liposuction begins.

    In both cases incisions are made into the skin, and tissues are surgically manipulated...

B. Laser liposuction - with NO surgery.

Some patients are very skittish about surgery.

These individuals cringe at the thought of any blood or pain. They would never darken the door of a plastic surgeon. Part of the problem with traditional liposuction is that it relates to only a few ideal candidates for the surgery (i.e. those with good skin elasticity, within their ideal weight, and in good general health)...

Some people who are otherwise great candidates for traditional liposuction – just aren't in line for the procedure because they can't tolerate the thought of blood or pain.

What these guys need is a procedure that doesn't actually involve any surgery at all.

  • How non-surgical laser lipo works:

    There are several non-surgical laser lipo devices on the market today. All of them are premised on the idea that the action of the laser occurs through the skin (no incisions necessary) – penetrating down to the superficial fat layers.

    One such treatment is the Zerona™ laser. It is a low level, non-invasive body contouring slimming system. The Zerona™ lasers rotate around the waist, hips, and thighs as the patient is lying prone. The lasers selectively target fat cells without destroying them. Instead the laser punches holes in the fat cells and the lipids leak out and are picked up and are disposed of by the body's lymphatic system.

    While there are other non-surgical lipo lasers that may work through slightly different mechanisms – they all avoid the pain and discomfort of traditional surgery.

How is laser liposuction any better than the normal?

I believe firmly in lists – they tend to make things very clear. So, let's create a list with the "pros" of laser liposuction...

  1. First, laser lipo helps tighten loose skin – potentially avoiding the need for additional surgery.
  2. Don't need general anesthetic.
  3. Recovery can be faster than traditional lipo.
  4. In many cases there is less bruising, bleeding, and scarring than traditional lipo.

No two patients or procedures are exactly alike and so there are no guarantees. Having said that – it is important to understand not only what the strengths are, but the weaknesses as well.

What are the risks involved?

We've discussed – really – two different liposuction procedure types. So we'll talk separately about each of their risks.

A. Lasers with traditional lipo surgery.

Risks include but are not limited to:

  1. Burns from laser.
  2. Infection.
  3. Bruising and swelling.
  4. Blood and fat clotting.
  5. Lumpy and wavy pockets of under-treated or over-treated fat.

B. Laser liposuction - with no surgery.

Risks include but aren't limited to:

  1. Skin sensitivity to laser.
  2. Results can take a few weeks to be noticed.
  3. Results possibly only very temporary.
  4. No visible result achieved at all.

As you can see - no laser liposuction technique is without its potential consequences. So, is it worth it to take-on the risks?... That is a question only you can answer.

In Conclusion:

Lasers are a remarkable convenience in modern life – and in liposuction as well.

Hopefully after this discussion you will have a better sense of their benefits and liabilities.

The most important ingredient to add to a good result for any type of surgical or non-surgical procedure is to educate yourself about it first. Educated folks seem to have an easier time selecting qualified practitioners, understanding the potential pitfalls, and making better choices about cosmetic procedures.

So don't be shy... look into it first.

Watch this informative video:

Dr. Rokhsar explains laser liposuction vs. contouring.

Laser Liposuction References:

  • Worcester, Sharon. "Laser lipolysis beats liposuction in two studies." Skin and Allergy News 39.5 (2008): 31. General OneFile. Nov 2009.

  • "Right for Zerona Non Invasive Laser Liposuction and Weight Loss Program Secured by AVI Pharma in Southeast Asia." PRWeb Newswire (16 Oct. 2010). General OneFile (26 Jun 2011).

  • Ault, Alicia. "Body-contouring laser approved." Skin & Allergy News. vol. 41.11 (2010): 50. General OneFile (26 June 2011).

  • "Laser-assisted liposuction." Dermatolopgy Nursing. vol. 22.1 (2010). General OneFile (26 Jun 2011).

  • Reszko, Anetta E., et al. "Histological comparison of 1064 nm Nd: YAG and 1320 nm Nd: YAG laser lipolysis using an ex vivo model." Journal of Drugs in Dermatology 8.4 (2009): 377(6). General OneFile (26 Jun 2011).

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