Ulthera: Ultrasound Lifting and Tightening of the Face, Neck, and Other Areas

Michael A. Persky, MD
Article by
Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon

You look in your mirror, notice early signs of aging…a hint of jowling here, some sagging of the skin there…and then you place your hands on your cheeks in front of your ears and imagine what you would look like as you gently and subtly pull back and up, just a little, but it makes all the difference in the world. All of a sudden you look like you did years ago. But you are not ready to have an invasive surgical face lift. What if you were told that there is now a ultrasound machine that targets the same muscle tissue that is tightened with facelift surgery, but no surgery is required? Ulthera, an exciting new aesthetic device does just that.

Ulthera, featured in this month’s Vogue (Apr 2011), is a safe and effective non-invasive ultrasound (US) treatment that can lift and tighten facial skin and muscle without downtime. According to Catherine Piercy, author of the well written Vogue article, “Ulthera…is making it much easier to imagine a world in which hooded lids, falling cheeks, and lazy jaw lines can be treated without a single incision”.

Originally FDA approved for lifting eyebrows non-surgically,Ulthera’s unique state of the art technology is now used to lift and tighten the face, neck, and other areas of the body. It has successfully treated the lines along the upper lip that are most difficult to treat with injectables.

Ultherapy is performed in the office with only ultrasound gel applied to the skin. An ultrasound screen image allows the physician to visualize the level of treatment before US energy is applied to the targeted tissue. The treatment takes from 45 to 90 minutes depending on the area(s) treated. Cost also depends on the areas treated.

What about the discomfort level? Again from Ms. Piercy in Vogue, “If anything, Ultherapy’s greatest drawback may be the pain factor, which ranges from a hot prickling sensation to short but intense bursts of discomfort”. Patients can be given oral medications or local anesthetic nerve block injections if needed, but the majority of Ulthera patients are able to tolerate a properly performed treatment with just a cold air blowing on their skin.

Although many patients see immediate lifting results, the ultimate results do not happen overnight, but gradually over time. It can take up to 2-3 months for optimal rejuvenation. Ulthera has been used for close to 2 years. Some patients treated 1 1/2 to 2 years ago are now returning for second treatments. Though they still appear improved from their pre-treatment “before” photos, most desire further improvement, further turning back the hands of time. Practitioners have reported that even in cases where they don’t see a big difference in before and after photos, patients feel and notice the tightening to the point of being satisfied. Ultherapy is ideal for patients between 35 to 60. Older patients and those with excessively loose skin will benefit from either laser therapy or surgical face lifting.

After two years of personal research and due diligence about the clinical benefits of Ulthera, as well as being impressed by the findings and experience of worldwide respected cosmetic physicians, I am convinced that Ulthera is both safe and effective, and have therefore have decided to add Ulthera to our practice. As with all cosmetic treatments, results will vary depending on the skill,experience, and aesthetic sense of the treating physician, physician’s assistant, nurse, or staff member. Results will also depend on proper diagnosis and patient selection. Side effects may include some bruising, swelling, and a feeling of tightness in the days after the procedure.

The additional of Ulthera to our practice adds a valuable non-invasive tool in taking care of our patients needs. Be well.

Ulthera has been recently featured on Dr. Oz, and The Doctors, both can be seen on YouTube.  Also there are many reviews of the treatment here on RealSelf.