SmartLipo 101; The Basics of this New Approach

Michael H. Rosenberg, MD
Article by
White Plains Plastic Surgeon

As the great thaw of 2011 proceeds, our thoughts turn to springtime, golf and tennis, and shedding some of those extra layers accumulated over the long winter…For those of us plagued by localized fat deposits and bulges, liposuction can offer some relief.  One of the more exciting recent developments in the field of liposuction has been combining medical lasers with traditional liposuction in what is called laser assisted lipolysis.  In my own practice, SmartLipo has been a tremendous boon to many patients. 
     Traditional liposuction works by using a cannula, or small hollow tube, to disrupt the fat in specific areas of the body.  Fat cells are then aspirated, or removed, with suction.  The body then responds with gradual skin tightening over the suctioned area giving the desired smoothness of contour.  Unlike dieting, which shrinks the body’s fat cells but leaves them in place, liposuction actually decreases the total number of fat cells present.  As long as there are no subsequent major increases in weight, the results are long lasting.  Although multiple areas of the body can be treated with liposuction, the result depends on the skin’s tone and ability to tighten after the fat is removed.  Using laser technology internally along with liposuction to help tighten the skin is the breakthrough provided by the SmartLipo system.
In the SmartLipo Triplex system, a laser fiber is passed through a small cannula which is inserted through a narrow incision a few millimeters long.  The laser uses three separate wavelengths of light which targets and disrupts fat cells, which can then be suctioned and removed.  After the fat has been removed, the laser is then passed along the undersurface of the skin, stimulating additional tightening by disrupting the collagen in the skin (see last month’s column).  The entire procedure can be performed using tumescent anesthesia, a type of local anesthesia which keeps patients comfortable during the procedure, and can provide continued pain relief up to twelve hours after the procedure.  If desired, oral or intravenous sedation can be added for comfort.
     The ideal candidate for this procedure is active, is generally in good shape and has localized fat deposits which he or she would like removed, and wants to limit downtime away form work and other activities.  Areas that can be treated include the abdomen, thighs, face, neck, arms, flanks, or male breasts (gynecomastia).  The procedure should be performed in an accredited facility by an experienced cosmetic surgeon, and most patients can resume normal activities in two to three days.  The device itself has computer controlled safety enhancements including SmartSense which prevents the laser from emitting energy if the cannula is stopped, and ThermaGuide which continually monitors the temperature under the skin and will also prevent the laser from working if the temperature drifts above designed parameters.  The cost typically runs about $2000-2500 per treated area, and because the fats cells are removed, and since adults do not reproduce fat cells, results can be long lasting…