Does your excess belly fat discourage you from putting on a bathing suit? If so, you may be interested in a combination of fat-removal techniques which includes a laser treatment approved by the FDA in 2006 to "melt" abdominal fat and prevent the loose skin that's a common side effect of standard liposuction.

The Laser Advantage

When used in combination, laser lipolysis and liposuction (a.k.a. laser liposuction) is less invasive, and for many more appealing—than traditional and more invasive surgical procedures like the tummy tuck. With laser liposuction, "the laser delivers energy that is specifically absorbed by fat," says Abbas Chamsuddin, MD, an interventional radiologist at the Center for Laser and Interventional Surgery in Atlanta, and the lead author of a large study on the technique. "The laser destroys fat cells under the skin and makes fat fluid-like. Melted fat is then aspirated [drawn out by suction], then the overlying skin is treated with the same fiber, which is absorbed by the skin. The laser causes the contraction of existing collagen and elastin fibers, and the formation of new healthy fibers. The effect of this is tighter, nicer looking skin."

Researching the Results

The technique has had impressive results. According to a presentation at the Society of Interventional Radiology's 38th Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans, an analysis of close to 2,200 patients found that laser liposuction was about 50 percent more effective than traditional liposuction alone, though Chamsuddin adds that the level of skin tightening achieved depended on each patient's skin tone and elasticity prior to undergoing the procedure.

Treatment and recovery time is also relatively fast: "A typical area (belly, love handles, and outer thighs) would take 60 to 90 minutes to treat," Chamsuddin says. "The recovery time, which depends on the number of areas treated and the amount of fat removed, may vary from one to two days to five to six days."

Is This Approach for You?

Although the research is preliminary and not all doctors are sold on this approach, laser liposuction could be a viable option for people looking to slim their abdomens without experiencing pockets of loose skin in the process. Just keep in mind that this treatment isn't a replacement for making healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly; furthermore, "this is not a weight loss program," Chamsuddin stresses, "but rather a body sculpting technique." To find out if you're a good candidate for this procedure, visit an interventional radiologist in your area and learn more about this technique.

Abbas Chamsuddin, MD, reviewed this article.



Chamsuddin, Abbas MD, interventional radiologist, Center for Laser and Interventional Surgery, Atlanta, GA. Email interview. 22 May 2013.

Society of Interventional Radiology. "Laser Liposuction Melts Fat, Results in Tighter Skin." 15 April 2013. Web. 28 May 2013. Page accessed 39 July 2013.