How does VASER compare with other body contouring technologies

Recently there has been an explosion of technologies that claim to be effective at reducing the fat content of the body and to allow contouring of the body.

I am frequently asked by my patients what works and what does not. During my recent trip to Italy, Dr Prendergast, president of the European Academy of Aesthetic Medicine, presented an overview of the current technologies available and their relative advantages and disadvantages, so I thought I would summarise the current findings to help you understand the differences.

Site Images / Bernard in Italy 2012 (medium)

Body contouring technology and techniques and be divided into 2 types; external and internal. External techniques involve the application of some kind of energy source externally, in an attempt to destroy fat cells. Internal technologies require the penetration to skin which allows for fat cells to be directly destroyed and for the permanent removal of fat cells.

Let’s look at external technologies first. These usually involve the application of an energy source, such as laser, radiofrequency, unfocused ultrasound or external focused ultrasound to try and destroy fat cells, essentially cooking them. More recently cryolipolysis (the cooling of fat cells) has been touted as a means to reduce fat cells. A lot of these technologies have been marketed very heavily, both in Australia and overseas, with claims of varying degree of efficacy. The main advantage of these technologies is that they do not involve the penetration of skin.

Although these technologies are marketed as being non-invasive, their safety may in fact not surpass other more established techniques such as liposuction. There have been reports of burns and scarring caused by burns to the skin. The application of energy source causes temperature changes, such as heat or coldness, which can be uncomfortable or painful. Moreover, the effectiveness of these technologies is considerably less than any of the internal technologies, often requiring multiple treatments to achieve a modest effect, making them rather expensive propositions. They do not allow precise sculpting to occur.

I will now focus on the internal technologies and will discuss these in more detail. All internal technologies require penetration of the skin and aspiration of fat cells directly. They are therefore considerably more effective than the external technologies. However, they are often only minimally invasive with high and well established safety profiles, and with very little downtime involved.

Site Images / Body One (small)Suction assisted Lipoplasty (SAL) or traditional liposuction, particularly when performed under tumescent anaesthesia, has been the gold standard in body contouring for years. It is highly effective and popular. However, newer techniques and technologies based on the traditional SAL, can now yield better results.

Laser assisted lipolysis/lipoplasty has emerged over the past decade. There are several varieties of laser machines that are being marketed. Their main advantage is that the heat generated by the laser is able to achieve a good degree of skin tightening. However, studies have shown that the temperature around the laser probe rises rapidly and at times alarmingly. There is a higher degree of adverse effects related to the high temperature generated.

Water jet technology involves the use of a high powered water jet to blast the fat cells off their attachments, which are then removed by suction. The main advantage is that a smaller volume of tumescent anaesthetic fluid is required, and therefore more areas could be treated in one session. The procedure itself is easier for the surgeon and less technically demanding. However, it does not allow the precision demanded by High Definition VASER liposculpture nor does it allow any meaningful degree of skin retraction and redraping.

Radiofrequency assisted Lipoplasty involves the application of radiofrequency wave. The main benefit is similar to laser lipolysis in that it allows a good degree of skin tightening. The equipment is more cumbersome and it is difficult to treat some parts of the body. The risk of burn is probably similar to that of laser lipolysis.

VASER uses internal ultrasound energy to emulsify fat cells before they are removed by suction. The main advantages are that it allows an incredibly high degree of precision, particularly with the High Definition technique. It is also highly effective, safe and gives skin retraction. The main disadvantages are that the procedure takes slightly longer to perform and the surgeon needs to learn different techniques.

My own experience

I found Dr Prendergast to be spot on in his assessment. When I became dissatisfied with traditional SAL, I tried most of the technologies mentioned above. I found that VASER allows me to achieve results far superior than any of the other technologies that I have tried. It is highly effective, and is performed as a day procedure, with a well established safety record. There is usually only minimal discomfort after the procedure with a short recovery period.