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RF Lipo Dives in with the Sharks, but Can It Swim?


In an already full body contouring market, can yet another modality of fat removal survive?

For years, liposuction has been one of, if not the, most popular cosmetic procedures. Body contouring is big business and it's not surprising that there are many companies with devices to accomplish the goal of reshaping bodies in a safe and efficient manner. Radiofrequency assisted liposuction (RFAL) is among these new devices, which also include lasers, high pressured {!water, | body-jet} ultrasound, and specially developed vibrating cannulas. Can RFAL make its own niche in the market or is it entering too late in a saturated sector of aesthetics?


The concept of all these modalities is simple - breaking up the fat before it is suctioned out makes the removal easier on both the patient and the physician and can, in many cases, enable the physician to do more than simply remove fat, but actually sculpt the patient's body. RF works by delivering a high-frequency electrical current to the fat cells which essentially dissolves them while causing little to no trauma to the surrounding tissues. A recent study seems to confirm both the efficacy and safety of the procedure, however it should be noted that the study was done with a limited sample and follow up was limited to 3 months post procedure. The 26 patients who participated in the study all reported minimal postoperative pain, and significant improvement was made in body contour, weight and circumference. All patients reported skin tightening, though these improvements were subjective.

Newport Beach cosmetic surgeon Dr. Thomas Barnes spoke to us about BodyTite by Invasix, an RFAL device. Dr. Barnes says, "BodyTite is a remarkable, new technology. I can tell you, if and when they get their FDA clearance, they may change the way that assisted liposuction is being done."

Dr. Barnes describes BodyTite as, "a remarkable, ingenious unit where you poke a little hole in the skin, you put the fluid in, like you're going to do liposuction, and instead of using liposuction, you advance these prongs, one above the skin, one below the skin, and the prong on the top makes a contact for the electrical energy from the prong that's under the skin that's also sucking at the same time. But it's really sucking melted fat and so what they came up with - which is ingenious - is to advance this double prong unit... so they can dynamically check the temperature... as they suck melted fat."

"I'm hearing that they can melt the fat as fast as liposuction - because a lot of the laser lipolysis units are a lot slower than liposuction alone. So you don't have a longer procedure and you're delivering the heat necessary in order to improve the post op course," says Dr. Barnes. Laser lipolysis devices take a bit longer than traditional lipo because the melting and suction are two separate steps. The physician first melts the fat to be removed, then goes back in with a cannula for aspirating the fat. Oftentimes, the physician will make another final entry with the laser to deliver heat to the skin in an effort to bring about tightening, enabling the patient to avoid additional procedures such as a tummy tuck.

Indeed, if RFAL can accomplish the precision, sculpting, and skin tightening of laser assisted lipo procedures and do so in less time, it may find the niche it needs to survive in the competitive body contouring market. Other new technologies that are impacting the lipolysis market include Zerona and Zeltiq.