Cosmetic surgeons are developing innovative techniques in order to meet the patient demand for effective procedures with less downtime and less trauma.

Dr. Patrick McMenamin, Sacramento-based cosmetic surgeon and president of American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, is perfecting a procedure known as the “laser facelift”. He combines Smartlipo laser-assisted lipolysis and liposuction skin-and-tissue tightening associated with subcutaneous application of light and heat energy. After administering local anesthesia, the surgeon creates three or four small incisions, one behind each earlobe, and one or two under the chin. The surgeon removes a variable amount of fat (depending on the individual patient), then uses a laser probe between the skin and muscle to uniformly liquefy additional fat. In addition to removing extraneous fat underlying the skin, the laser facelift technique heats the skin, which stimulates collagen formation, tightening the tissues.

“There are all kinds of theories about what mediates this healing process, whether it’s cytokines, leukotrienes, prostaglandins,” or some other mechanism, Dr. McMenamin says. But what he knows for a certainty is that in the hands of skilled surgeons, liposuction — and laser treatments — provide exceptional results.

“In my experience, this represents a different healing process than what I’ve seen before with my standard facelift techniques. And, on some levels, based on the parameters I use with my patients, it’s better. Recovery is easier.” Patients have their procedures on Monday or Tuesday, for instance, and go back to work by the end of the week. They also have somewhat normal sensation in the area within the first week, Dr. McMenamin says.

Good candidates for this procedure include nonsmokers in good general health, with localized areas of fat in the jowl area and under the chin, and who have good skin integrity.

“The improvement on the entire jowl (to the oral commissure to the nasolabial line) has been exceptional” Dr. McMenamin notes.

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“Why are we using the laser? We think we are getting better skin contraction. We think we’re getting that because we’re inducing another level of trauma — in this case heat — a more uniform level of trauma. At least, this is our hypothesis.”

Whatever the causation, Dr. McMenamin says, “It seems to be a little easier on the patient, and I’m able to get a slightly better result, specifically in the jowl, along the jowl line, and in the oral commissure and moving up nasolabial line.” This is something, he says, that he does not get with a regular facelift because the facial nerve is so superficial.

Our medical panel believes that even though the benefits of using laser for both complex facial surgeries and rather minor liposuction treatments may still remain scientifically understudied, but anecdotal evidence proves that the use of lasers makes such treatments more controllable, less invasive, and reduces the healing time.