Other Associated Terms: ThermaLift®, ThermaCool®, Radiothermoplasty.
Thermage® is a non-invasive, non-surgical procedure designed to tighten, firm and lift the skin using radio waves. Rejuvenation can be accomplished in several body locations which can include the face, legs, arms, stomach or buttocks. The procedure was first used to smooth wrinkles and improve facial appearance without downtime and surgical incisions.
Thermage® procedures have been FDA approved for wrinkle and fine line treatment around the eyes.
The benefits of Thermage® revolve around its almost non-existent downtime and can be an option for those who don’t desire a full facelift. It can also be sought by those who are concerned about the limited longevity of effects with injectable fillers such as Juvéderm® or Restylane. Beneficial effects of Thermage® can include; lifting of the eyebrows, tightening of the skin (especially around the neck, jaw and chin), addressing acne scars and softening of deep creases.
The ideal candidates for Thermage® are those who may not be candidates for a surgical procedure (standard facelift) and middle-aged individuals who are beginning to show sagging or drooping of the neck, eyelids, cheek folds or jowls. Also, included are those who may have had a previous facelift and would like an additional touch up to further tighten the skin. Poor candidates are those patients who are seeking a dramatic result that would require a surgical facelift.
Thermage® may be most effective for those patients that require 1-2 millimeters of facial tightening. A comparison can be seen in the much greater 1-2 centimeters that would be seen in a standard brow lift (10 times the amount).
For body contouring, candidates may include those who have had children with the resultant loose skin in the lower abdomen. Also, those with flabby inner thighs, upper arms and buttocks are good candidates for Thermage®. Patients with mild acne and acne scarring can also be good candidates.
The procedure is usually performed in the doctor’s office and typically takes a few minutes to an hour to perform. The results can be seen after one treatment, in some cases. For example, there have been women who have reported losing one and a half inches from their abdomen after their first session.
The doctor will first administer topical anesthesia and oral pain medicine prior to the procedure. Once the pain medication takes effect, the doctor will then begin treatment. Patients generally report a deep heat or a slight pinching sensation during the procedure. However, the development of a new hand piece has led to less treatment discomfort through its vibrating action.
The device utilized, will deliver radio energy that heats collagen in the treated area. That energy contracts and builds collagen which then tightens skin surface appearance. With each energy pulse, the skin’s outer layer is cooled and the deep layers of fat and skin are heated. This pulsating energy action produces tightening of the collagen. Each pulse of radio energy will take 2-7 seconds and the amount of pulses needed will vary, depending on the area to be treated. Typically, though, the face will require 400-600 pulses while the stomach region may need 400 pulses.
The treated skin surface will continue to tighten over the next 3-6 months. The body’s natural healing process is also stimulated, producing more collagen with the passage of time. The surgeon can also perform other procedures in conjunction with Thermage®; such as eye lifts or laser hair removal.
The Thermage recovery period is essentially non-existent. It is considered to have no significant downtime and many patients return immediately to work or other daily routines. However, there may be some redness and swelling that will last from one to two hours following treatment.
Risks Associated with Thermage
Although Thermage® can be effective as an appearance enhancement technique, you should keep in mind that it’s not a substitute for a surgical facelift. The results will not be as dramatic and there are occasions where no results are evident due to the physiology of the patient.
Side effects are uncommon, but they can include redness, peeling, swelling or blisters these effects will usually last a few days, but can sometimes last a few weeks.
Thermage cost ranges between $2,000 and $3,500 per treatment and will depend on your location and the experience of the doctor. Of course, the costs will also be effected by other procedures that are performed in conjunction with Thermage®. Since medical insurance will not usually pay for Thermage® treatments, you may wish to inquire about financing options.
Things to Discuss with Your Doctor During Your Consultation
Before you decide if Thermage® is the treatment for you, you should first have a consultation with an experienced plastic or cosmetic surgeon. This way, you can base your decision on the expected goals for your treatment. Other things to discuss with your doctor are;
- What are the details of the actual procedure?
- How long does the procedure take?
- What are the risks and how many patients have experienced complications in this practice?
- Will there be a recovery period and what does that entail?
- What is the experience of the doctor in this procedure (how many treatments has he or she performed in the past year)?
- What are the anesthesia options?
- What is the total cost for the treatments and how long do the effects last?