Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery
Print this page
Email this page
Small font size
Default font size
Increase font size
Home About us Current issue Archives Instructions Submission Subscribe Editorial Board Partners Contact e-Alerts Login 

   Table of Contents     
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 122-128
Evaluation of tissue tightening by the subdermal Nd: Yag laser-assisted liposuction versus liposuction alone

1 Clinica Goldman Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil
2 Department of Dermatology and Allergology, Hospital Dresden-Friedrichstadt, Academic Teaching Hospital of the Technical University of Dresden, Dresden, Germany
3 Department of Statistics, Instituto de Matemática - Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil

Click here for correspondence address and email

Date of Web Publication17-Sep-2011


Background: Skin tightening is a desirable outcome for skin flaccidity. Objective: We evaluated the applicability, safety, capacity and intensity of skin tightening with the subdermal 1,064 nm Nd: YAG laser application to the upper arms, and compared the results with liposuction. Materials and Methods: Patients with lipodystrophy and mild-to-severe skin laxity of the arms were included (n=28). In half of patients, a single treatment with a subcutaneous laser and liposuction was performed, while the other 14 had a regular liposuction. Treatment parameters, adverse effects and photographic documentation were recorded. Results: Aesthetic improvement and skin retraction was superior by laser lipolysis. The procedure was well tolerated without significant complications. Conclusions: The subdermal laser-assisted liposuction using a 1,064 nm Nd: YAG laser achieves improved skin tightening.

Keywords: Laser lipolysis, liposuction, skin tightening

How to cite this article:
Goldman A, Wollina U, de Mundstock EC. Evaluation of tissue tightening by the subdermal Nd: Yag laser-assisted liposuction versus liposuction alone. J Cutan Aesthet Surg 2011;4:122-8

How to cite this URL:
Goldman A, Wollina U, de Mundstock EC. Evaluation of tissue tightening by the subdermal Nd: Yag laser-assisted liposuction versus liposuction alone. J Cutan Aesthet Surg [serial online] 2011 [cited 2022 May 17];4:122-8. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Laser-assisted liposuction is a relatively new option in the treatment of localised adipose tissue hypertrophy and skin laxity. [1],[2],[3],[4],[5] Adiposity of the arms as well as flaccidity in these regions represent a frequent cosmetic concern associated with ageing. These characteristics can be observed in young patients as well. Traditional approaches to treat this condition included liposuction and, in severe cases, brachioplasty with resection of excess tissue. Liposuction is effective in some cases but there has been no evidence that the procedure improves the skin laxity. Additionally, skin retraction with regular liposuction is very limited. Surgical brachioplasty or arm lift leads to variable scarring. These scars, even when well located, present a significant inconvenience to patients and are aesthetically challenging. The main side effects related to arm lift are seroma, hypertrophic scarring, cellulitis, wound dehiscence, subcutaneous abscess, nerve injury and irregularities. [6]

Recently, the internal use of the neodyminium: Yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Nd: YAG) laser for laser lipolysis was approved by the FDA in the US and in some European and South American countries. Many studies have demonstrated the useful aspects of the subdermal laser action not only in the fat but also in surrounding tissues (dermis, vessels, sweat glands and sebaceous glands). [7],[8],[9],[10],[11] Among the effects related directly to the use of 1,064 nm Nd: YAG laser are fat cell disruption and stimulation of new collagen formation. [12],[13],[14],[15] The consequent skin and tissue tightening represents the most useful aspects of this modality for skin laxity and localized fat of the arms. [16],[17],[18],[19]

Direct comparative trials for sculpturing of upper arms have yet not been performed. We aim to present first data comparing liposuction and laser-assisted liposuction for this delicate indication. In this study, lipodystrophy and flaccidity of the arms were treated with either the Nd:YAG laser-assisted lipolysis or microcannular liposuction (suction-assisted liposuction) to compare the efficacy and safety. This pilot study focuses on the skin tightening effect of these techniques.

   Materials and Methods Top

Twenty-eight female patients with skin flaccidity and lipodystrophy of the arms (median age 42.3 years, range 35−54 years) took part in this prospective pilot study at Clinica Goldman de Cirurgia Plastica, in Porto Alegre, Brazil and at Maimonides Day Hospital in Porto Alegre, Brazil [Table 1]. All subjects included in the study had smooth-to-moderate skin laxity with loss of the normal contour of the arms. Additionally, the localized fat on the arms compromised the aesthetics of this anatomical region. Patients with previous surgical treatment such as axillary lymphadenectomy, brachioplasty or liposuction were excluded from the study. Lactating and pregnant women, smokers and obese patients were also excluded. Subjects with infection in the area to be treated or with a weight variation of more than 5% in the follow-up evaluation were not included in the study. All patients underwent a pre-operative assessment including laboratory tests to determine their general medical condition and signed informed consent.
Table 1: Demographics of patients

Click here to view

Standardized photodocumentation and measurements of arm circumferences was done immediately before the procedure in order to determine the circumference of each arm as well as to verify the asymmetries. The photographs have been analyzed independently.

Since circumferential measurements may be difficult to standardize, particular attention was paid to the exact positioning during measurement. Arms were measured in standing position hand down. The measures were taken based on an imaginary point demarcated in the posterior aspect of the arm, distally 10 cm from the posterior axillary fold. This represented the reference point for the measurement of the circumference of each arm and standardized the data collection [Figure 1]. These standardized measurements were repeated in the follow-up period of 3 months. The analysis of variance was performed on the arm circumference percentage of reduction using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences for Windows®.
Figure 1: The assessment of circumference of each arm was based on an imaginary point demarcated in the posterior face of the arm, 10 cm from the posterior axillary fold in a distal direction

Click here to view

Surgical technique

All surgeries were performed on an ambulatory basis under aseptic conditions. No prophylactic antimicrobial was used except in one patient with a previous history on endocarditis.

After adequate measurement and evaluation of the localized adiposity, skin texture and laxity of the arms, with the patient in an upright position, the area was marked. Preoperative sedation with midazolam was used for anxious patients. In all cases, an anesthesiologist was present in the operating room. The procedure was initiated 20 minutes after the local subcutaneous tumescent infiltration of Klein's solution using lidocaine 0.05%−0.1%, epinephrine 1:1000 and 10 milliequivalents per liter sodium bicarbonate added to each liter of warm normal saline. The total volume injected per treated arm ranged from 175 to 850 cc. The injection was delivered using infusion pump or syringes. A 20-minute delay allowed an adequate diffusion of the solution as well as appropriate vasoconstriction. One 1 to 2 mm incision was made in the internal aspect of each arm, near the elbow. Up until this step, the procedure was the same for both groups.

Patients intended to treat were allotted to one of the two treatment procedures only based upon their appearance at the departments with every second patients included in group 1. The treatment groups 1 and 2 were only different by the addition of a subdermal laser to microcannular liposuction. In group 1, a pulsed 1,064 nm Nd: YAG system (Smartlipo, Deka, Calenzano (FI), Italy) was combined with liposuction. The energy was delivered to the subcutaneous tissue through a 300−600-micron optical fiber with a 1−1.4 mm diameter stainless steel microcannula of variable length connected to the tip of the fiber. The distal portion of the fiber optic was extended 2 mm beyond the distal end of the cannula. Protective goggles were used by patients as well as the staff. The cannula, containing the optical fiber, was inserted through a small skin incision. In order to visualize the subcutaneous laser action in the fat and subdermal tissues, a helium: Neon (He: Ne) red beam is added to the YAG laser. This provides a reddish transillumination effect acting as a constant and exact locator of the activated laser energy at all times. The more intense the light, the more superficial is the laser action. The cannula is moved in the fat at various depths, including the very superficial subdermal layer at approximately 2 to 3 cm/s. The total energy delivered was individualized according to the amount of fat present, the necessity of dermal stimulation and the consequent tightening effect. The total accumulated energy per side ranged from 5.040 J to 16.560 J. The endpoint of the laser action is achieved when the resistance of the cannula in the fat is overcome showing an effective laser lipolysis. The tissue consistency should also be evaluated by the pinch test. The skin temperature was also controlled during the laser activity on the arms using an external digital thermometer. When the external skin temperature reached 42°C, the laser energy delivered was interrupted thus avoiding a possible tissue burn. As a consequence of the laser action producing cellular lysis, the fat tissue consistency is transformed into a less dense solution. This oily lysate containing fragments of cells, oil and also the infiltrated solution is removed from the arms. Suction using a two holes 2.5 mm cannula under negative pressure was used. The amount of aspirated tissue per patient ranged from 170 to 1180 cc [Table 2].
Table 2: Technical details

Click here to view

In group 2, no optical fiber was used but tunnelization with 1−1.4 mm cannulas was exactly the same as in group 1. Immediately after this step, liposuction by the 2.5 mm cannula and negative pressure, similar to the first group, was conducted. Sutures were not used in both groups, allowing a natural and spontaneous drainage following the procedure. A smooth garment was used in all patients for 10 days. Physiotherapy in the form of external lymphatic drainage and ultra sound were begun on the first post-operative day for all patients in group 1 and 2 for 2 weeks with the same frequency of application.

The patients were evaluated and photographed at three months after the procedure. The circumference of each arm was re-measured using same preoperative reference points. The results are given as mean ± standard deviation. The follow-up period ranged from 3 to 20 months.

   Results Top

Both treatment groups were comparable in the means of pre-treatment measurements. There was slightly higher mean age in group 2 (±1.4 years). The range and mean of removed tissue was comparable, what points to the fact that difference in outcome are not related to the amount of tissue removed but rather to the tissue response following the procedure.

The major outcome in both groups was a reduction in the circumference of the arms with a consequent aesthetic improvement [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6] and [Figure 7].
Figure 2: A 54-year-old patient is shown before (a) and 3 weeks after (b) laser-assisted liposuction of the arms

Click here to view
Figure 3: Lipodystrophy of the arms, posterior view before (a) and 6 months after (b) subdermal laser treatment

Click here to view
Figure 4: A 46-year-old woman is shown before (a) and 6 months after (b) laser-assisted liposuction of bilateral the arms

Click here to view
Figure 5: Patient with localised fat and skin flaccidity is shown before (a) and 3 weeks after (b) laser-assisted liposuction of the arms

Click here to view
Figure 6: A 49-year-old woman is shown before (a) and 1 year after (b) laser-assisted liposuction of the arms

Click here to view
Figure 7: A 36-year-old woman is shown before (a) and 6 months after (b) laser-assisted liposuction of the arms

Click here to view

Percentage of reduction in the arm circumference of both groups was tabulated and compared. Both the subdermal 1,064nm Nd: YAG laser-assisted liposuction group and liposuction only group, presented skin and tissue tightening as well as a decrease in the circumference of the arms [Table 3]. Arms treated with laser presented a mean skin retraction of 11.4 ± 3.17%, whereas the group treated without laser had a mean of 8.70 ± 2.40%. Circumference reduction of the laser lipolysis group was significantly higher than the group without laser (P = 0.001) [Table 4]. That is substantiated by pinch testing before and at the end of follow-up and by photodocumentation.
Table 3: Descriptive statistics of arm circumference percentage of reduction

Click here to view
Table 4: Analysis of variance of arm circumference percentage of reduction

Click here to view

The photographs have been analysed independently. The aesthetic outcome was rated higher with laser lipolysis.

Adverse effects

Ecchymosis, edema and a temporary decline in the sensitivity in the treated areas were observed in some patients in both groups and lasted about 1 to 5 weeks. No other adverse effects or complications such as burns, unaesthetic scarring or irregularities were observed.

   Discussion Top

Various lasers and lights have been used in the past for the improvement of skin quality and texture. They act by stimulating new collagen formation leading to skin retraction in the body and face. All these devices are applied externally and the energy (laser, light, high frequency and ultrasound) must cross the epidermal and dermal barriers to reach their targets in the connective tissue. [15],[16] Recently, a new laser source applied internally, in the subcutaneous tissue, has been described for the treatment of localized fat using the 1,064 nm Nd: YAG laser. [18],[20],[21] Despite the fact that the initial indication for the use of this laser was lipolysis, the capacity to produce subcutaneous tissue retraction and mainly skin tightening represents a relevant and important aspect widening the indication of liposuction to many other situations. Patients who probably were candidates for skin resections with consequent scars would now benefit from the use of this approach. [17],[18],[19]

The major effects of the laser action in the fat and surrounding tissues are photomechanical and photothermal. The preferred parameters include low laser power, continuous wave irradiation, and relatively long irradiation times (>2 min) with bare fibers. This approach reduces the operation risk and stress for the patient reduces. Hereby interstitial tissue coagulation can be achieved for volumes with diameters of up to 5 cm. Of particular interest is the fact that expansion of adipose tissue is linked to the development of its vasculature. Indeed, adipogenesis is tightly associated with angiogenesis, as shown by the findings that adipose tissue explants trigger blood vessel formation, whereas in turn adipose tissue endothelial cells promote preadipocyte differentiation. Modulation of angiogenesis as laser coagulation of vessels may have the potential to impair adipose tissue development and thus provide a novel therapeutic approach for prevention of recurrence of adipocyte growth. [22]

Significant histological findings following laser lipolysis have already been described in the literature. [14],[15],[23] The energy delivered to subcutaneous tissue leads not only to fat cell disruption (laser lipolysis) but also to the stimulation and remodeling of new collagen with a consequent skin tightening effect. [3],[14],[24] This observation can be easily explained by mathematical modelling showing that the temperature increase inside the lower dermis is sufficient (48−50°C) to induce skin tightening. Nd: YAG induced hyperthermia allows heating of a precisely defined volume of tissue. The resulting wound repair is associated with new formation of both collagen and elastin. [24]

Formation of small channels, coagulation of collagen and reorganisation of reticular dermis result in increased skin elasticity and reduced flaccidity. [13],[15],[18],[25]

Quantification of this effect is a major tool to optimize the procedure. We performed an evaluation of upper arm perimeter and found a significant benefit of laser-assisted liposuction compared to microcannular liposuction. In a small laser lipolysis study involving five male patients with focal abdominal fat deposits skin shrinkage was measured from four quadrants of tattoo skin markings and evaluated using a three-dimensional camera. Skin tightening was measured with a skin elasticity device. In this study, it could be demonstrated that elasticity increased by 26%; the average skin shrinkage was 17%. [26]

Some points remain challenging in our study: What is the extent of skin flaccidity that can be improved by this technique and how much retraction of the skin would be possible to achieve in each situation? Are these results reproducible? The results of this pilot study open potential indications of the use of the laser as an effective tool for skin and tissue retraction in other areas of the body and face. Subdermal Nd: YAG laser could be used as an isolated procedure or in association with traditional surgical and non surgical techniques. The treatment of wrinkles would be another possible indication of this entity due to its collagen and elastin stimulation with consequent skin retraction and improvement of skin texture. Further studies to evaluate the amount of energy needed to produce an effective action without damaging the tissues, the clinical effect of association with other wavelengths of Nd: YAG laser, determining the endpoint to the laser action, the quantification of the retraction and long term results are required in the future.

Based on the subjective evaluation comparing the photographic documentation and the objective mathematical evaluation of the arm circumference, it was evident that skin tightening produced by the subdermal use of the Nd: YAG laser represents a useful and versatile tool in the management of the skin flaccidity and lipodystrophy.

The positive aspects of this modality include lack of overtly evident scars, minimal discomfort in the recovery period, high patient satisfaction, educed complication rate and a relatively simple technique. Added to this is the significantly improved outcome in the appearance of the arms.

The procedure proved to be effective for skin tightening and lipodystrophy of the arms and represents another useful option to treat these conditions in this anatomic area. Further studies are required in order to determine the reproducibility of these effects in other anatomical regions.

   References Top

1.Goldman A, Schavelzon D, Blugerman G. Laser lipolysis: Liposuction using Nd: YAG laser. Rev Soc Brasil Cirurgia Plástica 2002;17:17-26.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Goldman A, Schavelzon D, Blugerman G. Liposuction using neodymium: Yttrium-aluminium-garnet laser. Plast Reconstr Surg 2003;111:2497.   Back to cited text no. 2
3.Badin A, Moraes L, Godek L, Chiaratti MG, Canta L. Laser lipolysis: Flaccidity under control. Aesth Plast Surg 2002;26:335-59.   Back to cited text no. 3
4.Neira R, Arroyave J, Ramirez H, Ortiz CL, Solarte E, Sequeda F, et al. Fat liquefaction: Effect of low-level laser energy on adipose tissue. Plast Reconstr Surg 2002;110:912.   Back to cited text no. 4
5.Goldman A. Submentale laserassistierte Liposuktion: Klinische Erfahrungen und histologische Ergebnisse. Kosmet Med 2005;26:4-11.   Back to cited text no. 5
6.Knoetgen J 3 rd , Moran SL. Long-term outcomes and complications associated with brachioplasty: A retrospective review and cadaveric study. Plast Reconstr Surg 2006;117:2219-23.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Goldman A, Geronemus R, Kim K. Lipoaspiração a Laser. In: Toledo LS, editor. Laserlipólise em Lipoplastia. Brazil: DiLivros Rio de Janeiro; 2006.p. 111-21.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Kim K, Geronemus R. Laser lipolysis using a novel 1064 nm Nd: YAG laser. Dermatol Surg 2006;32:241-8.   Back to cited text no. 8
9.Goldman A. Submental Nd: YAG laser-assisted liposuction. Lasers Surg Med 2006;38:181-4.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Kunachak S, Wongwaisayawan S, Leelaudomlipi P. Noninvasive treatment of bromidrosis by frequency doubled Q-switched Nd: YAG laser. Aesthetic Plast Surg 2000;24:198-201.   Back to cited text no. 10
11.Goldman A, Wollina U. Subdermal Nd: YAG laser for axillary hyperhidrosis. Dermatol Surg 2008;34:756-62.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Klöpper M, Fischer G, Blugerman G. Laser-assisted suction of axillary sweat glands and axillary epilation. In: Shiffman MA, Di Giuseppe A, editors. Liposuction - Principles and Practice. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag; 2006.p.505-15.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.13.Brow S, Rohrich R, Kenkel J, Young VL, Hoopman J, Coimbra M. Effect of low-level laser therapy on abdominal adipocytes before lipoplasty procedures. Plast Reconstr Surg 2004;113:1796.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Ichikawa K, Miyasaca M, Tanaka R, Tanino R, Mizukami K, Wakaki M. Histologic evaluation of the pulsed Nd: YAG laser for laser lipolysis. Laser Surg Med 2005;36:43-6.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Dang Y, Ren Q, Liu H, Zhang J. Comparison of histologic, biochemical and mechanical properties of murine skin treated with the 1064 nm and 1320 nm Nd: YAG lasers. Exp Dermatol 2005;14:876-82.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Huaxu Liu, Dang Y, Wang Z, Chai X, Ren Q. Laser induced collagen remodeling: A comparative study in vivo on mouse model. Lasers Surg Med 2008;40:13-9.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Di Bernardo BE, Goldman MP, Saluja R, Woodhall K, Reyes J. Laser lipolysis with sequential emsission of 1064 nm and 1320 nm wavelengths. Cynosure Whitepaper. Available at:  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Goldman A, Gotkin RH. Laser-assisted liposuction. Clin Plastic Surg 2009;36:241-53.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.McBean JC, Goldman A, Katz B. Laser lipolysis. In: Alam M, Doner JS, editors. Procedures in Cosmetic Dermatology - Non-surgical Skin Tightening and Lifting. Netherlands: Saunders - Elsevier; 2008.p. 157-64.   Back to cited text no. 19
20. Bruce Katz, Jason McBean. Smartlipo MultiPlex-an advanced system for laser lipolysis. Cynosure Whitepaper, Westford MA USA April. 2008.  Back to cited text no. 20
21.Goldman A, DiBernardo BE. Laser lipolysis. In: Barry E DiBernardo, Jason N Pozner editors. Lasers and Non-Surgical Rejuvenation. Netherlands: Saunders- Elsevier; 2009.p. 115-27.  Back to cited text no. 21
22.Christiaens V, Lijnen HR. Angiogenesis and development of adipose tissue. Mol Cell Endocrinol 2010;318:2-9.  Back to cited text no. 22
23.Mordon SR, Wassmer B, Reynaud JP, Zemmouri J. Mathematical modeling of laser lipolysis. Biomed Eng Online 2008;7:10.   Back to cited text no. 23
24.Wollina U, Goldman A, Berger U, Abdel-Naser MB. Esthetic and cosmetic dermatology. Dermatol Ther 2008;21:118-30.  Back to cited text no. 24
25.Goldman A, Gotkin RH, Sarnoff DS, Prati C, Rossato F. Cellulite: A new treatment approach combining subdermal Nd: YAG laser lipolysis and autologous fat transplantation. Aesthetic Surg J 2008;28:656-62.  Back to cited text no. 25
26.DiBernardo BE, Reyes J. Evaluation of skin tightening after laser-assisted liposuction. Aesthet Surg J 2009;29:400-7.  Back to cited text no. 26

Correspondence Address:
Alberto Goldman
Av. Augusto Meyer 163 conj. 1203, Porto Alegre RS, 90550-110
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0974-2077.85035

Rights and Permissions


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]

This article has been cited by
1 Outcomes of Combined Liposuction/Laser Skin Tightening versus Open Suction-Assisted Brachioplasty in Moderate Arm Ptosis
Mina Fayek, Ibrahem N. Rizk, Ahmed M. Hashem, Omar A. EL sharkawy
Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. 2022; Publish Ah
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 A Single-Center, Prospective Trial Investigating Effects of Combined Infrared, Radiofrequency, Mechanical Massage, and Suction Treatment on Submental and Lateral Neck Tissue Contouring
Marc A. Polacco, Teresa Luu, Garrett Ni, Natalie H. Attenello, Agatha Dicarlo, Corey S. Maas
The American Journal of Cosmetic Surgery. 2021; 38(1): 42
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Laser-Assisted Facelifting and Energy-Based Rejuvenation Techniques During Rhytidectomy
Richard D. Gentile
Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America. 2020; 28(3): 379
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 Ultrasound-Assisted Rhytidectomy Including Sub-SMAS and Subplatysmal Dissection
Richard D. Gentile
Facial Plastic Surgery. 2020; 36(04): 430
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
5 Update on Liposuction: Laser-Assisted Liposuction Versus Tumescent Liposuction
Christie G. Regula,Naomi Lawrence
Current Dermatology Reports. 2014; 3(2): 127
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
6 Short-flap facelift with 924 nm/975 nm laser lipolysis: a retrospective study of 78 patients
Patrick Ramirez,Alicia Leibowitz,Mimi Traylor-Knowles,Farhan Taghizadeh
Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2014; 13(1): 22
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
7 Laser Lipolysis Using a 924- and 975-nm Laser Diode in the Lower Extremities
Elena Bravo Brañas,Javier Moreno Moraga
Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. 2013; 37(2): 246
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
8 Complications from Laser-Assisted Liposuction Performed by Noncore Practitioners
Craig A. Blum,Charles G. S. Sasser,Jonathan L. Kaplan
Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. 2013; 37(5): 869
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

    Materials and Me...
    Article Figures
    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded269    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 8    

Recommend this journal