What Is Laser Lipolysis?
Laser lipolysis is a relatively new procedure, having only been approved for use in 2006, yet it has proven to be one of the most popular methods for battling the bulge. Contrary to popular belief, laser lipolysis is not a weight loss treatment. It is unsuitable for overweight or obese patients with large amounts of weight to lose, and is instead aimed at men and women who are a healthy weight and yet struggle with areas of fat that can be difficult to get rid of, even with vigorous exercise. This is especially common in areas such as the breast tissue in men, and the post-baby stomachs in women. Laser lipolysis can give similar results to traditional liposuction, but the two procedures differ greatly.
How Does Laser Lipolysis Differ From Liposuction?
While liposuction is performed under general anaesthetic and is considered to be a major surgical procedure, laser lipolysis is one of a number of emerging 'lunchtime treatments'. Although it is classed as surgery, it is minimally invasive, is performed under local anaesthetic, and takes less than two hours in total, so it's very much a 'pop in, pop out' treatment, and can unfortunately be seen as rather trivial because of this, in the same way that laser eye surgery or breast augmentation is viewed by many today.
In terms of the procedure itself, traditional liposuction involves making a mid-sized incision in the skin, and inserting a microcannula which is manually moved in a vigorous manner to encourage the breakdown of fat cells. These are then removed from the body using suction. When laser lipolysis is performed, a very small incision is made through which a laser is placed. The laser uses both movement and heat to essentially melt the fat cells, which can then either be burned by the body, or removed via suction.
Is It Better Than Liposuction?
Whether one procedure is better than the other is really dependent upon individual circumstances. The results of laser lipolysis are somewhat limited, so those with greater quantities of fat to lose, and those who are expecting dramatic results, would benefit more from liposuction. However, if you're fit and healthy and are simply struggling with one or two problem areas, laser lipolysis may be the better option.
As it's a quick and minimally invasive procedure, the recovery times are much quicker, with studies reporting that the average time between surgery and returning to everyday activities is approximately 1.5 days, meaning you would not need to take extended periods off work, or arrange to have your home responsibilities covered.
In terms of success, it has been reported that around 13 percent of liposuction patients return to the clinic due to inadequate fat removal, while just 3.5 percent return due to unsuccessful laser lipolysis.
What Can I Expect At The Clinic?
The procedure is actually very straightforward. Firstly, you'll be given a local anaesthetic in the area you're having treated. This will numb the area, but you will remain awake and aware of what is happening. A surgeon will make a very small incision so that the laser can be inserted, and then it's a case of just lying back and relaxing for around one to two hours while the laser does its job. The exact amount of time it takes will largely depend upon the size of the area being treated. For example, treating the chin area may be much quicker than treating the stomach.
You shouldn't feel anything during the procedure, although some patients do report feeling warm. This is natural, as the heat of the laser needs to be around 48 to 50 degrees Celsius to melt the fat cells. If you've chosen to let the fat be burned by the body, the laser will be removed and you'll be allowed to go home. There's no stitching required, the wound will simply heal itself. If you've opted to have the fat removed, another tube will be inserted into the body to suck the fat out. Depending on the size of this tube, you may require a stitch or two just to ensure the wound heals properly.
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What Areas Can Laser Lipolysis Treat?
Does Laser Lipolysis Work?
While it's not a miracle cure, laser lipolysis really can work, but the results will vary depending upon the wavelength of the laser, and how much fat you've got to lose. Clinics tend to use wavelengths of between 924nm and 1440nm during this procedure. It is thought that the lower wavelengths are more successful at melting fat, but the higher wavelengths are better for tightening the skin. Generally speaking, you can expect to see around 500ml of fat removed during the procedure.
You should notice a mild difference in your appearance almost immediately, although, as the body continues to burn the fat that has been expelled from the cells, you should see more of an effect after a couple of weeks so don't be disappointed if you don't look quite how you imagined straight away. Give it time.
Is It A Safe Procedure?
Laser lipolysis is a very safe procedure. As it is performed under local rather than general anaesthetic, the risks associated with anesthesia are significantly reduced. However, it is important to remember that laser lipolysis is a surgical procedure and there are potential risks. Due to the heat of the laser, some patients have reported mild burning. However, if you've chosen a good surgeon and a reputable clinic, this should be very unlikely to happen as the surgeon will ensure the laser is embedded deep in the fatty tissue, and should use a thermometer to monitor the internal temperature. Infection can also occur if the wound does not heal properly, although this can easily be rectified with antibiotics.
How Much Does It Cost?
Laser lipolysis is not intended to be used as a method of weight loss, and is instead categorised as a cosmetic procedure. This means that it is not available through NHS funding. Instead, patients will need to look at choosing a private clinic. Prices will vary depending on the clinic, but typically, you can expect the procedure to start at around £1,500 for a small area such as the chin, rising to as much as £4,500 for larger areas like the stomach.