ASAPS 2010: the Laser Lipo Backlash

I just returned from the Aesthetic Society’s annual meeting, held just outside Washington, D.C. As usual, ASAPS put on another top quality, well-organized session, with a wide selection of first-rate surgeons from around the world. The next series of blog posts will feature new stories from the meeting.Up first: The Disappointment of Laser Liposuction.

Despite the marketing hype by the laser manufacturers, surgeons are now coming forward saying that they’re just not seeing the hoped-for improvement in results with laser liposuction, compared to standard liposuction methods. The excitement phase, seen when any new technology comes along, is probably over – to be replaced by a more honest, pragmatic assessment phase.

Dr. Jeff Kenkel, laser guru from UT Southwestern, probably said it best with a very honest assessment, “I really wanted to believe in the lasers, and I kept on trying them…”, but then he showed us his clinical results, which showed very little, if any, skin tightening. He admitted there wasn’t a single surgical result obtained with the laser that he couldn’t have been obtained with standard liposuction.

So far, there’s very little good science at this point in 2010 to back up the claims that the manufacturers were making in 2007. That’s not to say that laser lipo is without some merit – it’s just not the magic wand that many promoters have claimed it is. Research is still ongoing, and surgeons like Dr. Barry diBernardino are working hard to present scientifically valid data, not just opinion and “hand-waving”, like we’ve seen in the past.

Many surgeons in the audience felt like the manufacturers really need to show more solid scientific research, before making sales claims. Others of us felt it was really up to us not be conned by preliminary results and sub-standard studies, and to demand better from the manufacturers and the news media.

Of interest, the best lipo results I saw at the whole meeting were done by Dr. Simeon Wall, Jr., of Louisiana. His secret: a three-step liposuction method done with… power-assisted liposuction. No laser, no magic gadget – just a great technique with the tools we already have.

Once again, it’s the carpenter, not the hammer used.

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