Non-surgical body contouring encompasses a wide spectrum of energies and devices. When the patient as the consumer is trying to decide what is the best machine or procedure, the variety of choices can certainly feel overwhelming. Non-surgical body contouring can be divided into two categories: non-invasive and minimally invasive. The non-invasive devices use many different types of energy including:
- Mechanical Suction with and without thermal injury
- Examples: Endermologie, TriActive, VelaSmooth, SmoothShapes
- Examples: VelaSmooth, VelaShape, Thermage, ThermaCool, Accent, Vanquish, Venus Freeze, Exilis
- Examples: UltraShape, Liposonix
- Cold or freezing
- Examples: CryoSkin, T-Shock, CoolSculpting
- Examples: Sculpsure, Bliss
- Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
- Examples: Zerona
The stated advantages of these devices are that they can be performed with few complications and for the most part they are relatively comfortable. Overall, this Is a fairly accurate statement, although there are more than a few exceptions. What about the results? The results vary tremendously; however, the best of the studies, many of which are, unfortunately, manufacturer sponsored, indicate a 20-25% reduction in subcutaneous fat. In reality, the result achieved is significantly less than those figures. In addition, in order to achieve any significant results, these devices require for the most part a series of treatments spread out over many months. The cost of these treatments, although apparently nominal for a single treatment, can add up quickly.
The other type of non-surgical devices for body contouring fall in the minimally invasive category. The energies used in these devices are also lasers and radiofrequency. Examples of these devices include:
- Lasers: SmartLipo, SlimLipo, CoolLipo
- Radiofrequency: ThermiTight, InMode
These devices differ from the noninvasive procedures in the they all require a small fiber to be placed through a tiny puncture wound under the skin and into the subcutaneous fat. The fat which is melted is then removed with a thin cannula. The procedures are, in my office, only performed under a local anesthesia and generally take between 1 to 1 ½ hours. The tiny puncture wounds do not require a suture to be placed. The advantages of a procedures such as SmartLipo are that:
- Single Session: Desired correction can be achieved in one session as opposed to many.
- Customized Sculpting: The amounts of fat that can be removed are significantly greater and I can sculpt the tissue to achieve the results customized for and desired by each patient. In contrast, the non-invasive devices are limited in the amount of tissue removed and have a bulk effect on the tissues with no customization possible.
- Skin Tightening – Devices such as the SmartLipo will also result in significantly more skin tightening than the noninvasive devices where little to no skin tightening is seen.
- Cost – The total cost of the single session SmartLipo is much less than the cumulative cost for the series of treatments required for devices such as CoolSculpting and SculpSure.
I understand there are reasons that patients will elect to choose one of the noninvasive procedures such as cryolipolysis. If someone is, however, looking to achieve the maximum result in a single session at a lower final cost, then certainly laser lipolysis with a device such a SmartLipo makes the most sense.