Smart Lipo – Just the Facts
When I am doing a liposuction consultation, I frequently get asked about Smart Lipo; so much in fact that I decided to write a blog about it. Smart Lipo has been around in Europe for over 10 years. It was FDA approved in the U.S in October 2006. It is a laser (1064nm ND:YAG to be specific) that serves to rupture fat cells. At the same time the energy from the laser promotes collagen shrinkage and tissue tightening. Ideally it is for small areas of fat that don’t respond to diet and exercise, especially when there is some skin laxity. During the procedure, which is typically performed under local anesthesia, a small cannula is inserted into the area being targeted and a laser fiber is sent through the cannula. The laser breaks up the fat and coagulates the blood vessels surrounding the fat. The liquefied fat is then absorbed and excreted from the body. Some practitioners, however, elect to use a traditional liposuction cannula to remove the liquefied fat.
The advantages are supposed to be less bruising and swelling, as well as tightening of the skin. There have been reported, albeit uncommon, complications such as skin burn or seroma from the heating effects of the laser. However, this is largely avoidable because a temperature probe is used during the procedure to ensure the skin temperature doesn’t get too high. There has been one prospective, randomized trial comparing traditional liposuction with smart lipo. This was published in 2005 by Dr. Arturo Prado in the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. The study conclusion was that there was no difference in outcomes between traditional liposuction and smart lipo.
Personally, I feel that in order to advance any field, especially medicine, we need to critically look at new technologies. If we were to denounce every new laser or device because it is not what we are used to using, there would never be any progress. However, one of the difficulties I have with some of these new modalities is that there is a lot of marketing and advertising and not a lot of scientific data to back up the claims. This does not do our patients a service. It is up to us, the plastic surgeons, to analyze the data and provide unbiased information for our patients.