Last month I saw a new ultrasound liposuction machine that was brought by vendors to the office for a try-out (the month before it had been a  laser lipo!). These lipo machines are a new generation where no incisions are necessary.
External ultrasound liposuction for the abdomen
This new technique is an external ultrasound machine that has the supposed ability to heat your fat cells through the skin to the point that they leach out their fatty interior, which then gets sucked up by your body and excreted through the urine and stool.  The heat energy is also supposed to shrink collagen in the skin and hence provide skin shrinkage. The saggy bits of skin are supposed to disappear. It is touted as an alternative for the patient needing a tummy tuck or liposuction who does not want to have surgery.
Technique and cost
The process takes about 30 minutes, is painless and feels like a massage. The cost is about $500 per session per area, and patients may need one or two sessions.
There’s only one problem—I didn’t see any difference in the results! They showed me a photo of one patient who may have had a difference, but in all others I really could not tell. I’m going to wait on this one until the proof that it works is more convincing and someone tells me that releasing large amounts of fat into your bloodstream is not going to clog your brain’s and heart’s arteries!
Facelift with no incisions or downtime
This week another vendor came to my plastic surgery practice selling another machine. This one was also an ultrasound liposuction machine for the neck and face. This technology apparently does not remove fat but causes shrinkage of the face through its effect on collagen. It is touted as a facelift without scars or downtime.
Technique and cost
Again, 30 minutes or so of moving a wand like the ones used by the ultrasound machines used to see babies in utero. You pay $4,000 for a neck lift, and the results last up to 18 months (by the way, that is what I charge for a surgical neck lift that lasts 7-10 years). The company selling this has a video link of a young plastic surgeon in Chicago saying how great it is.

The cost of ecah of these two external ultrasound liposuction machine to the surgeon is $80,000—but they will finance!

If I were to buy every piece of medical technology that comes through the door, I would end up spending around a million dollars a year! That much for technology that is scientifically unproven, based on claims that are dubious if not false, hawked by salespeople working on commission and supported by TV news shows and unknown plastic surgeons trying to get a news story.

Nobody in that mix seems to care about the patients who are going to be sold expensive, ineffective or at least pathetic treatments that will leave them unsatisfied with their cosmetic surgery experience and make all plastic surgeons look bad.

I’m not saying there is no future for this type of technology. I’m just saying we should evaluate new technologies in a proper scientific manner in clinical trials before companies and marketing firms bring them in haste and unproven to market. Medicine and business are just not a good mix, as we all know.

So here we are 10 years later and guess what…. it’s gone! No one talks about it anymore- What happened?

Morad Tavallali, M.D., FACS

Cosmetic Plastic Surgeon


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