It happens to me all the time at medical conferences: I scramble to get myself to a meeting room, squeeze myself past aisle-seat squatters (you know who you are), get settled, pull out my notebook, and realize with the introduction of the first speaker that I’m in the wrong place. I then either get to where I need to be or just stay put, either because there’s no easy way out or I hear or see something that piques my interest.
The latter happened yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in Boston, when I found myself in scientific session A – “Lipoplasty: It’s Us, Not the Machine” – instead of scientific session B – “The Face – Fillers vs. Fat.”
Anticipating an industry-sponsored feel-good fest dominated by slide after slide of before and after success stories, I started gathering up my gear to make my escape, when something unexpected happened. One of the panelists, Dr. Simeon Wall of the Wall Center for Plastic Surgery in Shreveport, Louisiana, slammed laser-assisted liposuction, which, since its arrival on the scene in 2007, has been touted as being a more effective, more efficient fat removal technology than traditional liposuction, resulting in less bruising and swelling and quicker recovery times, along with improvements in skin tightness and the appearance of cellulite. In fact, Dr. Wall stated, based on a review of the published literature, these claims “have no scientific basis,” even though the technology is FDA-approved and the machines have been on the market for a few years.
Intrigued, I decided to stay put for a few minutes to hear what some of the other panelists had to say, thinking a potentially interesting debate might ensue. I was half right. What followed was interesting, but there was no debate. In fact, the panelists were mostly in agreement with Dr. Wall’s assessment.
Dr. Constantino Mendieta, who is in private practice in Miami, referred to the laser liposuction device in his office as a “very expensive dust collector. It just doesn’t work.” Panel moderator Dr. Steven Teitelbaum of Santa Monica, Calif., suggested that the few good results achieved by select surgeons who are extraordinarily proficient with the device are exceptions to the norm and that the rate of dangerous complications associated with the technology outweigh the remote chance of substantial benefit.
In response to a lament from a session attendee in the audience that the majority of the revisional liposuction cases he sees in his practice are the result of laser-assisted liposuction, Dr. Wall agreed, and noted that the deformities associated with laser-assisted liposuction are typically “more difficult to correct” than those associated with other liposuction methods.
Although the session was filled with the expected collection of before-and-after shots achieved using a range of liposuction methods (some of the differences were impressive; some barely discernable), I was glad I stayed. The laser lipo-bashing was informative and entertaining, and the session seemed to lend credence to the stated theme of this year’s ASAPS meeting: “Affirming the Science of Aesthetic Surgery,” although the corollary – “Debunking the Hype” – might have been a more appropriate moniker. Either way, it was well played.
— Diana Mahoney