Normally, I find both laser treatments and liposuction interesting on their own. So you can imagine my level of curiosity when I heard about the new laser lipo treatment, LifeSculptTM. On June 24, 2009, the company Palomar Medical Technologies, Inc. made the LifeSculpt procedure nationally available for patients. Cleared by the FDA in April 2008, LifeSculpt features a special dual-wavelength laser (SlimLipo TM ) that specifically targets unwanted fat cells. Typically recommended for trimming the waistline, under the arms, and for the buttocks of patients less than 25 pounds overweight, LifeSculpt has also reportedly had success stories in areas as small as under the chin and around the knees. In a recent study reported in the Palomar Medical press release, 100% of subjects agreed that the LifeSculpt treatment immediately and significantly improved the appearance of fat in treated areas, and 100% also saw an improvement in skin’s smoothness and tightness in treated areas within three months following treatment. For more information, I turned to Dr. David Kent, M.D., a dermatologist who was one of the first to use LifeSculpt.
NZ: What kind of results can be expected from LifeSculpt?
Dr. Kent: Patients can primarily expect smoother, tighter skin from the procedure, as the [laser] wavelength specifically targets fat. This leaves the skin smoother, with a more sculpted look. I have actually had patients who have dropped three dress sizes from the procedure – from a 14 to an 8, or from a 6 to a 2. One patient even requested that she put her before and after photos on You Tube! On average, however, 3 pounds of fat are removed from the designated area(s).
NZ: That’s impressive! What essentially makes this different from traditional liposuction?
Dr. Kent: The technology of LipoSculpt makes this better than traditional liposuction. LifeSculpt’s laser wavelength is selective for absorption into fat cells, not into water. The fat cells are then emulsified. This allows for the fat to be removed easily, and then both horizontal and vertical tightening of the skin can occur, yielding dramatic results.
NZ: How does the procedure essentially work?
Dr. Kent: After IV anesthesia or oral sedation, subcutaneous fat is injected with local anesthesia, numbing every cubic centimeter of fat. However, instead of immediate removal as with traditional liposuction, SmartLipo features a flexible laser fiber in a 1.5-2.0 mm insertion, which is passed back and forth under the skin. This wavelength is selective for melting fat, and tightens the tissue fibers together. A non-aggressive cannula (not like the vacuum-like one of traditional liposuction) is then used to remove emulsified fat, which has the consistency of champagne (not a consistency like chicken fat from traditional liposuction).
NZ: How long does the procedure take? Is it painful? Does it require patients to take time off from work?
Dr. Kent: The actual time of the procedure depends on the size of the area treated. For the average abdomen, it takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour to numb the area, another 10-20 minutes to put in the laser, and another 60 minutes to finish the procedure. All in all, about 2.5 hours total on average.
As far as post-operative discomfort, most of my patients are fine with Tylenol or Darvocet. Many have said it feels like the day after a really rough workout. Most take the day off from work, though most are also able to return to work the next day, except those who are sedated with general anesthesia.
NZ: How much does this procedure typically cost?
Dr. Kent: Costs vary on the number of areas being done, as well as geographically by your location in the U.S. Typically, if I were to give a ballpark range, it would be $2500-$10000, but again, this depends on the number of areas and the geographic location of the surgeon, as well as the difficulty of the procedure and previous procedures. So certainly this is not a one-size-fits-all type of estimate.
NZ: Who is the ideal patient for this procedure?
Dr. Kent: In my practice, the ages range from 20’s to 70’s – a very wide range! As far as females to males, there is probably a 20-30 to 1 ratio in my practice. The ideal candidate is someone who is closer to his or her ideal body weight but has one part he or she wants to put back into proportion with the remainder of his or her body. Although some patients lose weight from the procedure, I recommend this procedure for sculpting, not for weight loss. However, sometimes patients who are heavier have this procedure done on a small area of his or her body and then feel more motivated to lose weight. In either case, I stress that this is one part of the approach, and good nutrition and exercise are still important.
NZ: Any take home messages about LifeSculpt?
Dr. Kent: This procedure is extremely well-tolerated, with rapid recovery times, noticeably tighter skin, and little discomfort. The technology behind LifeSculpt – with the fat cell-targeting laser wavelength – truly sets it apart. I have had patients so pleased with the procedure that they have brought a friend in for a follow-up, and the friend ended up being interested in the procedure too. ****
There you have it! For more on LifeSculpt, please visit the official LifeSculpt site at www.LifeSculpt.com. A special thanks also to Dr. David Kent, M.D., for his knowledge and time to provide this extremely insightful interview.