Laser liposuction or laser-assisted liposuction certainly has an intriguing name. It conjures up images of blasting fat cells or melting fat away with the pull of the trigger. In some ways, laser liposuction is just that—laser light energy used to break apart fat cells—however the results may not offer a distinct advantage over other liposuction options.
What is laser liposuction?
First, a clarification needs to be made is that laser liposuction is not entirely accurate. The term laser-assisted liposuction may be slightly more precise. The laser light energy that is used in this procedure is essentially a way to break up the membranes of cells, including fat cells. When the thin laser probe is pointed at and focused on fat cells, the light energy breaks open the fat cells and the fatty contents are released.
Some of the fat is vaporized instantly leaving the majority of the cells’ contents, an oily substance, to remain in the body. This oil is either absorbed by the body, allowed to drain from the small incision site, or is suctioned using a traditional liposuction probe.
The laser is to laser-assisted liposuction what the ultrasonic probe is to ultrasound-assisted liposuction. Instead of vibration energy, the laser uses the power of light energy to break up fat cells. Unlike ultrasound-assisted liposuction though, the laser cauterizes or closes small blood vessels that are disrupted in the procedure. This means that bleeding and bruising is generally less in laser-assisted liposuction.
Benefits of laser liposuction
There are some theoretical benefits to laser liposuction. The biggest advantage is that laser energy tends to cause fibers and other tissues to tighten. What does this mean? In traditional liposuction the fat is removed but the remaining tissue and skin take a good deal of time to heal and retract (shrink). In laser liposuction, the stimulated tissue under the skin causes it to shrink. The laser has been shown to stimulate the formation of collagen, a major protein in healthy skin. The result is that laser liposuction tends to reduce the need for touch-up procedures or subsequent skin removal surgery.
Laser-assisted liposuction may not be better than traditional approaches, however. When the two techniques were compared head-to-head in a clinical study, laser liposuction was no better than traditional liposuction. The complication rate with laser liposuction may be a little higher, too. The laser can burn the underlying tissue and cause scarring and/or pain in the treated area. It should be mentioned that the technique used in laser liposuction has been cleared by the FDA for safety.
Laser liposuction can be completed in about an hour. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia as opposed to general anesthesia. The use of local rather than general anesthesia speeds initial recovery and allows patients who receive laser liposuction treatment to return to work soon afterwards, sometimes within a day. When laser-assisted liposuction is combined with traditional liposuction, however, the procedure may indeed need to be performed using general anesthesia, which negates this benefit.
Laser liposuction results
The results seen with laser liposuction may or not appear much faster than traditional liposuction. The skin generally retracts more quickly and thoroughly in laser liposuction, but the final results are not necessarily immediate. Anyone considering liposuction should discuss laser-assisted liposuction with a qualified plastic surgeon.