One of the more popularized devices for liposuction is Smart Lipo, which uses a LASER to purportedly “melt” the fat (LASER lypolysis, laser-assisted lipolysis) before suctioning.
The concept is compelling. If a device can selectively break down the fat (selective lypolysis), there would be less trauma to other tissues (skin, blood vessels, nerves).
Less trauma (tissue injury) in surgery is always desirable. Less trauma means less inflammation, less scarring, less bruising, less swelling, less pain. Less trauma means faster recovery.
For that to be true, we have to have a laser that is truly selective for fat: we have to have a laser that targets only fat, or at least, a laser that targets fat primarily with minimal or no injury to the skin, muscle, blood vessels and nerves that are also in the way of the laser as the surgeon passes the laser device under the skin.
How do you design a laser to be so selective? Lasers are extremely concentrated light, so concentrated that the intense light beam of a laser carries a lot of energy. When this light strikes its target, the intense energy is converted to heat which burns the target. Sun light is made up many different wavelengths, and each wavelength has a color (why we see different colors in a rainbow). When a laser device is designed properly, the manufacturer chooses a wavelength that will be the optimal or specific wavelength that will be maximally absorbed by the target, so all (or most) of the energy will be absorbed by the target, and not heat up or damage the surrounding tissues.
Guess what? The laser in Smart Lipo IS NOT SELECTIVE FOR FAT! In fact, the Smart Lipo laser energy is causing all the tissues to heat up, not just the fat!
Unfortunately, Smart Lipo really doesn’t live up to the hype, because the laser is not selective for fat and sparing the other tissues. It really isn’t less traumatic than other selective lipolysis technologies (for example ultrasonic liposuction), and there have been no compelling objective scientific clinical studies to support the claims that Smart Lipo is more selective or less traumatic.
So although Smart Lipo is a great name for a laser lipolysis device, it’s really just the advertising and hype for Smart Lipo that is “smart!”