The pros and cons of laser-assisted lipoplasty will be discussed by leading experts at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), being held at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center April 23-27, 2010. “Point/Counterpoint – Laser Lipoplasty – Hype or Useful Tool?” will be moderated by Franklin DiSpaltro, MD, and will include Barry DiBernardo, MD and Jeffrey M. Kenkel, MD.
According to the Society’s statistics, lipoplasty is the second most popular surgical procedure in the United States, with 283,735 performed in 2009. Laser-assisted lipoplasty, in which a laser is used to disrupt fat cells prior to suctioning, has been hotly debated by plastic surgeons since the first laser-assisted device received FDA clearance in late 2006. “The past two decades have been highly technology-driven, with the introduction of many advanced liposuction-assisting devices,” said Dr. DiSpaltro, a past president of ASAPS from West Orange, NJ. “Each new technology has spurred great interest and enthusiasm. It is our role to determine if it is hype or a useful tool.”
With laser-assisted lipoplasty, a laser probe is inserted into the target area through a small incision, which the surgeon aims at fatty tissue to rupture the fat cells. The laser is then directed toward the skin layer to initiate a stimulation of these cells to achieve a reported tightening of the skin. Fat and disrupted tissue is then suctioned out. The technique received significant media attention as a popular “fat-melting” treatment with a celebrity following.
However, initial data showed that this procedure was no better than traditional liposuction. Additionally, it could present some risks to the liver and kidneys by releasing fatty acids from the fat cells if the recommended concurrent liposuction step approved by the FDA and included in current teaching is not performed. In the wake of the media storm around the fat-melting “phenomenon”, a task force was assembled and charged with investigating the technology, analyzing any safety issues and efficacy as compared to other devices, developing a teaching protocol, and educating 2,500 surgeons in how to effectively perform the procedure.
“Over the last two-and-a-half years there has been extensive research and development into laser-assisted lipoplasty, including multiple rounds of research and comparative studies published in peer-reviewed journals,” said Dr. DiBernardo, a plastic surgeon in Montclair, NJ. “Ultimately, laser-assisted lipolysis has come to be an important tool in the fat loss armamentarium.”
While laser-assisted lipolysis has since been found to be a safe, effective, and teachable technique for body contouring, the bottom line is that no tool on its own is a replacement for the skill and experience of a board-certified plastic surgeon.
“It is important to note that no device is a magic wand,” added Dr. Kenkel, a plastic surgeon in Dallas, TX. “Despite any hype generated by manufacturers, physicians, patients, or the media, results are ultimately practitioner-driven.”