What is SmartLipo?
SmartLipo, also known as Laser Lipolysis, is a form of liposuction which was developed in the mid-2000s. The treatment involves a laser being inserted into areas of ‘stubborn’ fat through a thin cannula – a hollow tube around 1mm across. The laser breaks down fat cells so they can be naturally absorbed and eliminated by the body. Many clinics carry out fat aspiration alongside SmartLipo treatment. This is where the broken down fat cells are suctioned out of the body.
Unlike traditional liposuction techniques, SmartLipo is minimally invasive. For some smaller areas, such as the chin, it may not be necessary to surgically remove the fat at all as the broken down cells will be absorbed naturally. However, the results may not be as striking as with other forms of liposuction.
Should I get SmartLipo?
SmartLipo is best used by people struggling to get rid of fat from problem areas which are resistant to weight-loss through diet and exercise. Typical areas include the stomach, bat or bingo wings on arms, knees and fat on the back, bottom or chin.
The procedure is particularly useful for areas of dense fat deposits or where skin is also sagging, such as after pregnancy or weight loss, as it causes skin to tighten.
People with a BMI over 30, women who are pregnant and anyone with a severe heart, kidney or liver disorder cannot undergo the procedure. Those taking medications to thin blood, such as Warfarin, are also unlikely to be able to have the treatment.
As with all liposuction treatments, results will be best if you are already in good physical health and controlling your weight through diet and exercise. The technique is designed to sculpt specific areas rather than acting as a tool for dramatic weight loss.
What is getting SmartLipo like?
SmartLipo treatment is often chosen by people who want to avoid undergoing a general anaesthetic or a lengthy recovery period. The procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic and does not require a stay in hospital.
During treatment, a very fine cannula – around 1mm in diameter – is inserted into the problem area through tiny incisions in the skin made by a surgeon. Through this cannula, a power fibre-optic laser is targeted at fat cells. The laser heats up the cells, causing them to ‘melt’ and break down. The broken-down cells are then slowly absorbed by the liver and naturally excreted from the body. If aspiration is also being carried out, the fat will be suctioned out of the body either through a cannula or a syringe.
The laser has the advantage of sealing off minor blood vessels, preventing too much bleeding. Because the body reacts as if it has been burnt, the procedure stimulates collagen production which helps skin tighten over the treated areas.
Compared to traditional liposuction, there procedure is relatively quick an unobtrusive. It can be carried out in as little as 20 minutes but normally takes around an hour.
What is the recovery time from SmartLipo?
Because it is carried out under local anaesthetic there is minimal downtime following treatment and bruising is usually not too severe. The incisions made to insert the cannulas are normally too small to require stitches. Patients can normally return to work and normal activities within 24 hours. However, you may need to wear a compression garment for around two weeks.
Results normally begin to show around six weeks after treatment and peak at between three to six months later. If you have aspiration alongside SmartLipo then you will see some results immediately, particularly once any swelling has gone down.
What are the risks and side effects of SmartLipo?
As with any surgical procedure, SmartLipo is associated with possible side effects including temporary bruising, swelling or reddening of the skin. There is also a risk of infection and your clinic may give you antibiotics as a preventative measure.
Some patients have also reported burns or blisters to their skin caused by the heat used during the procedure. Others have complained of persistent bruising, changes to skin colour and hair loss from treated areas.
Cosmetic risks of having fat aspiration alongside SmartLipo include lumpy or dimpled skin, which may be permanent.
The following serious risks apply to all liposuction treatments:
- Embolism: If loosened fat cells enter the blood they can get trapped, causing a clot. If these travel into the lungs or brain they can cause disability or even be fatal.
- Internal puncture wounds (visceral perforations): In some cases, the cannula may pierce an internal organ, such as the intestines. Damage can require further surgery and, in some cases, be fatal.
How much does SmartLipo cost?
SmartLipo costs from £1,200 to £6,000 depending on the size of the area to be treated. Prices normally include an initial consultation, treatment (including any medication required such as painkillers and antibiotics) and any follow-ups.
Make sure you speak to a range of clinics and research their results before choosing where to go for treatment. The British Association of Body Sculpting (BABS) lists surgeons who have passed a minimum standard of experience.
So is it worth it?
Critics of SmartLipo say the technique takes too long to see any results and causes only minimal fat reduction. However, developments in the use of aspiration alongside the treatment have seen improvements in visible fat reduction for many people.
When effective, SmartLipo can be a long-lasting way of removing fat that cannot be shifted through other weight-loss techniques. If you maintain a healthy body weight and continue to exercise after treatment, you should not regain the fat that has been removed.
The procedure destroys fat cells in treated areas, meaning if you do regain weight, it should be more evenly distributed around your body rather than focused on the problem areas. However, this is not guaranteed and depends on your natural body shape, metabolism and other factors.
As with and any surgical procedure, there are risks and it is important you weigh these up before deciding to go ahead with any treatment.