You may have heard of SmartLipo, as it has been one of the most searched for procedures in aesthetic surgery. The SmartLipo Triplex is the most advanced laser-assisted liposuction system available, and it has significant advantages over previous versions of SmartLipo that you may be familiar with. As with any liposuction system, whether traditional, power-assisted, water-assisted (Body-Jet), or ultrasonic (Vaser), the fat is still removed with suction through small metal canulas. In the case of SmartLipo Triplex, the fat is first melted with the laser, then removed via suction. The laser also may help tighten the overlying skin, as SmartLipo has been shown to achieve 24% improvement in skin elasticity and 17% improvement in skin shrinkage. This is considerably more shrinking ability than conventional liposuction. Regardless of the technology used, the most important ingredient in getting a good liposuction result is the surgeon. That said, although SmartLipo Triplex is not a miracle machine, it does offer several potential advantages over other systems.
First, some background. Technology in surgery tends to advance slowly, and sometimes doing something in a new way with new technology doesn’t always make it better. Because the new technology may be quite expensive, it may make the procedure more costly too. Lasers for use in medicine have been around for decades, and they certainly have some great applications, including cosmetic procedures (see here and here). Lasers as applied to fat removal have been around for many years too, and SmartLipo is one of those systems. However, until recently I was not too impressed with the purported advantages of using a laser to help do what more conventional liposuction did quite well. Sure the laser could melt the fat, but the claims that there was skin tightening from the laser seemed inconsistent and transient, and the data just wasn’t impressive. Plus the application of laser energy added a slight risk of burning of the tissues. Methods of using heat (via laser, radiofrequency, ultrasound, etc) to shrink collagen and stimulate collagen formation are many, with varying results.
The latest system by Cynosure is the SmartLipo Triplex, using 3 separate lasers in different ways to melt fat and effect skin tightening. Unlike previous versions, this system has a thermistor at the end of the canula (the bit that goes through the skin and lasers the fat) which keeps the heat applied within a very narrow range that is necessary to get the shrinking effects without causing a burn. This has always been the problem: it is known that collagen will shrink at a certain temperature, but previously it has been extremely difficult to control and maintain that temperature. The SmartLipo Triplex also has higher energy lasers, which means that the procedure can be done in less time than with previous systems. This means less cost to the patient. Because the SmartLipo canula is narrower than many typical liposuction canulas and melts the fat with the laser, less force is required to push it through the fat. Because of this, it can be done under local anesthesia provided a limited area is done and conventional liposuction is not needed. This also lowers the patient cost.
SmartLipo is best for mild to moderate excess fat accumulation. Because only a certain amount of local anesthetic can be given at any one time, patients with larger or multiple areas of fat to be treated may need to be done under general anesthesia, or staged in more than one session. Sometimes traditional or Body Jet liposuction may be done combined with SmartLipo. For patients getting fat injection, I prefer Body-Jet to harvest the fat cells to keep them viable for transfer. Cellulaze is a laser application FDA approved for treatment of cellulite that can be combined in some cases with SmartLipo and in fact is combined within the same machine. (For more information on Cellulaze see our page here).
For more information on SmartLipo visit their website here.