I am typically one of the biggest buzzkills for technology in plastic surgery and aesthetic medicine, particularly when it involves body contouring. As I've written about before, the whole laser liposuction (SmartLipo, et al.)thing has been very underwhelming on the results side (compared to traditional liposuction)for most practitioners willing to speak candidly on this. Recently, I decided to purchase a machine which is a little different kind of liposuction strategy. The technology, technically called Nutational Infrasonic Liposculpture (N.I.L), involves a novel hand piece with a tip that rotates in multiple dimensions while emitting low frequency vibrations.
What's impressed me about the Tickle Lipo is the efficiency of the device for fat removal and the decrease in pain as compared to the gold-standard of traditional lipo. The decrease in pain is presumably from the fact that you can be much more gentle with the manual movement of the cannula while the vibratory effect is supposed to down regulate local pain receptors. When done awake or under light sedation, patient's describe the vibration as a "tickling" sensation, hence the name. SmartLipo and related devices hurt just as much as traditional liposuction (despite what's being marketed) because you still have to go back and remove the fatty tissue with a traditional suction devices, so you're really not doing anything different on that end. To my mind, Tickle Lipo is kind of a hybrid between power-assisted devices (PAL) and ultrasonic (UAL)without the heat generated by higher frequency ultrasound. The heat from UAL and SmartLipo can have severe complications with external or internal burns created.
At the recent meeting of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), (the premier cosmetic surgery meeting annually in the United States), members were surveyed on their feelings and practices re. liposuction. This survey group would be a representative of the most experienced and accomplished body contouring surgeons in the world. Standard liposuction was the preferred method of fat removal for 51% of them. Power-assisted liposuction (PAL) was second, preferred by 23% of respondents. Only 10% of ASAPS members surveyed employ laser-assisted liposuction (SmartLipo and others) in their practice. When these ASAPS members were asked why they used a laser liposuction platform, the main answer was that it gave them a marketing advantage (68%) rather then any clinical result. Ultrasonic liposuction (UAL) was the most likely method to have been abandoned by the respondents.
With regard to complications after liposuction, ASAPS members felt that ultrasonic and laser liposuction were the techniques most commonly associated with complications (35% and 23%, respectively).Of the respondents, almost 40% have taken care of a patient with significant complications secondary to laser liposuction. Contour deformity was the most common complication reported by respondents (71%), followed by unsatisfactory results (59%), burns (44%), and scarring (38%).
This has been my experience as well. We're seeing more issues from these laser devices, most of which are being performed by non plastic surgeons. I think that has to do with the fact that it's more frequently non plastic surgeons buying these platforms rather then the fact that we'd produce less complications with them (although I think we would). After trialing a number of these technologies, we were just impressed with both the effectiveness and safety of Tickle Lipo.