Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Beware! Entering a no spin zone: Predictable pullback on Smart-Lipo and other laser assisted liposuction systems

It was so predictable as to be boring!

So I'm reading a particularly shameless trade journal this week who's cover story promised updates on laser liposuction. This monthly glossy magazine is essentially a series of (not so) stealth ads with physicians shilling for lasers and other products for which they're paid spokesmen. As the topic turned to laser liposuction systems (like Cynosure's SmartLipo) you saw a lot of pullback on exactly how enthusiastic a number of surgeons are.

"In reality, the degree of fat melting attained with laser lipolysis has not met the high expectations of some practitioners"
When you see comments like that in a fluff trade journal which routinely celebrates every device/technology (whether it deserves it or not) you know this issue is understated significantly. When you take mostly non plastic surgeons and hand them a "magic wand" like SmartLipo while promising great body contouring results, it's a set up for under delivering. There still is no shortcut on mechanically removing tissue for most patients. An exception might be some one's neck which has almost no fat to speak of.

This is kind of like the thread lift fiasco all over again. It's become clear that these laser platforms are much less revolutionary, but are more likely modestly complementary (if that) to the 30 year old tumescent liposuction techniques introduced to the west by a French surgeon named Illouz.

The general "off the record" feelings of most experienced plastic surgeons experimenting with this is that these types of devices are safe but offer no clear advantage. Repeatedly it's described more as a succesful marketing phenomena rather than a real improvement. It's still not established that delivering thermal energy below the skin affects "tightening" whatsoever, which is the whole gimmick of the laser. If it does, it doesn't appear to do it without still having to do most of the heavy lifting with traditional lipo.

In contrast to this unnamed aforementioned trade journal which is lame, I'd like to give a nod to editor Jeff Frentzen and Plastic Surgery Products magazine which frequently has good articles - like mine for instance


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