What is Laser Liposuction?

What do laser liposuction treatments like Smart lipo and Slim lipo offer? Are they the same thing?

Doctor Answers 14

LASER is the energy source

Liposuction is the removal of fat.  In all forms of liposuction, the endpoint is the removal of unwanted subcutaneous fat - this is true irrespective of which "energy" source is used.  In its simplest form: 1) Traditional liposuction uses the "muscle" of the surgeon, 2) Ultrasonic liposuction (including VASER) uses ultrasonic waves, 3) Power assisted liposuction (including Micro-Aire) uses electrical energy to move the cannula, and 4) Laser liposuction uses light energy.  Of course, it is important to keep in mind, that technology is only as good as the technician - meaning, laser unit does not perform the surgery - the surgeon does.  I always warn patients not to be "sold" on technology, as the operator still dictates much of the outcome.  I have performed over 1000 liposuction cases in last several years, utilizing both laser and power assisted units.  I hope my patients have trusted me as their surgeon because of who I am and my experience, and not because of my fancy tools.  Please get to know your surgeon - you deserve it - it's your health.

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Laser liposuction CoolLipo Smartlipo, SlimLipo

Traditional liposuction, ultrasonic liposuction (e.g., Vaser) and laser liposuction (e.g., CoolLipo, CoolTouch, Smartlipo, SlimLipo, LifeSculpt) are all forms of liposuction, using different approaches to injure fat and reduce or remove it. Some companies have brand names associated with their proprietary liposuction machines. The most frequently seen brand names in advertising today may be CoolLipo, Smartlipo and SlimLipo, all of which are recently released laser liposuction devices.

Laser Liposuction: A small laser-containing cannula is placed through incisions in the skin and utilized to injure fat cells and the deep layers of the overlying skin. A traditional liposuction cannula can then be used to extract injured fat cells. Because the effects of thermal injury to fat and overlying skin are not seen immediately, the outcome yielded by this technique may change over time. Although the laser-induced injury to the deep layer of the skin may result in tightening of the skin, as asserted in many company advertisements, it may be difficult to achieve a smooth, consistent degree of tightening. If every aspect of the tissue is not treated with the same amount of power from the laser, dimpling, or even burns, may result. Because of these risks and the absence of good studies demonstrating consistent results, the Plastic Surgery community has generally avoided the early adoption of CoolLipo, CoolTouch, Smartlipo, SlimLipo, LifeSculpt, or other laser liposuction machines in their practice.

Descritpiton of Laser Liposuction

Laser Assisted Liposuction is one form of liposcution that used the added benefit of light energy to enhance fat removal and skin tightening  in the right patients. Patients should have mild to moderate fat excess and mold to moderate skin laxity.  The wavelength of the light can be important  in that 1440nm has 40x the affinity for its fat target as compared to other wavelengths.

   The skin tightening issue has been a controversy as you read in this section claiming to have no evidence.  I can refer you to the Aesthetic Surgery Journal  Vol 30 Number 1 Jan/Feb 2010  pages 593-602 which describes the effect on the skin with laser as compared to liposcution alone in the same patients.

The consclusion of that paper is stated below.


Laser-assisted liposuction has increased usage in clinical practice. Previous work has confirmed safety, efficacy and temperature parameters to elicit skin tightening. In the present study, the sequential delivery of the 1064 and 1320-nm laser energies, as the only variable parameter in this internally controlled study, has led to data suggesting that the delivery of laser energy prior to liposuction has a statistically significant effect on skin shrinkage and tightening of the skin in the abdominal area.

Barry E. DiBernardo, MD
Montclair Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

Laser liposuction

It should be mentioned that the laser liposuction typically takes more time and may be more expensive than traditional liposuction. There is little evidence that it is superior to traditional liposuction. The marketing of these devices was aimed at patients to create a "media buzz" while good medical studies were not done. Many non-core aesthetic/cosmetic physicians purchased laser liposuction machines. So if you decide to have laser liposuction, be careful who you chose as your doctor.

Karol A. Gutowski, MD, FACS
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

How laser lipo works

After filling the area requiring treatment, like the abdomen or neck, with a dilute anesthetic fluid a laser fiber is inserted to heat up the overlying skin as well as help seal blood vessels and melt fat cells. A small suction cannula is then inserted to suck out excessive fat. This procedure combines tumescent liposcuplture with a laser to ensure optimal results and tight overlying skin.

Mitchel P. Goldman, MD
San Diego Dermatologic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Laser liposuction

Laser liposuction is a type of liposuction treatment that uses laser energy to melt and dissipate fat cells during the stage of fat aspiration from the body.  It can also be used to tighten the tissue and skin. 


Dr. Karamanoukian 

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 57 reviews

How "Smart" is your lipo

The traditional liposuction procedure has been employed for many years and remains an effective procedure to eliminate excess fat. In traditional liposuction, the surgeon moves the cannula back and forth to disrupt the fat cells which are then suctioned out with a vacuum device. 

The primary difference between SmartLipo and traditional liposuction is the use of the laser which facilitates the fat removal. Rather than manipulating the cannula to manually break up the fat cells, the laser melts the excess fat. This allows for a gentler, less invasive procedure with less discomfort, less bruising and swelling, and a quicker return to normal activities. Studies also suggest the laser also leads tightening of the skin, however, it may take some time to obtain this result. One benefit of laser liposuction in particular is in addressing areas of more firm or fibrous fat deposition (back fat).

As always, you should consult with a board certified plastic surgeon to determine what modality is best for you.

Donovan Rosas, MD
Nyack Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

The Benefits of Laser Liposuction

Laser liposuction differs from traditional liposuction in two main ways. First, the laser energy is used to "melt" the fat. This turns the fat into a liquid and makes it easier to aspirate from the surrounding tissue, as well as ensuring a smooth, even result. This is a distinct benefit in areas where the surrounding tissue is firm, like the "love handles" or "back fat" in the upper torso. In addition, the laser energy can be applied to the underside of the skin after the fat is removed. This heating of the skin causes the deep layer of the skin to become thicker and to contract, tightening the skin. This gives a distinct advantage in treating areas of thin skin, such as the upper inner thighs, arms, neck and knees.

Laser Liposuction

Laser liposuction is a treatment for spot fat reduction that uses a high tech laser to liquify fat cells.

Kris M. Reddy, MD, FACS
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

What is Laser Liposuction?

Smart lipo and Slim lipo are different brands of laser machines which can aid in disrupting and liqiufying fat cells in a liposuction procedure.  These laser machines along with other ultrasound machines, such as Vaser lipo, can help the surgeon remove fat in areas where the fat may be more dense and/or fibrous.  To a small degree, all of these machines can aid in improving skin tone by causing collagen to shrink in the deeper layers of the skin.  However, all of these machines do carry an increased risk of burns to the skin and seroma formation and should be used with care.

Vincent D. Lepore, MD
San Jose Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.