The average age of participants in the current study was 38, and about 75 percent were women, Chamsuddin said. The most common areas treated were the belly, "love handles," thighs and arms. The volume of fat removed ranged from 30 percent to 90 percent, depending on the body area.
A similar amount of fat can be removed with traditional or ultrasound liposuction, said Dr. Jeffrey Kenkel, a professor of plastic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
"The main thing being promoted with laser liposuction is improved skin tightening, but there is not a lot of objective evidence," Kenkel said. Although a previous small study found that skin tightening was about 50 percent better with laser compared to traditional liposuction, the degree of skin tightening was low with both procedures and the difference was probably not meaningful for patients, he said.
"You are going to need firm skin no matter what the procedure," Kenkel said.
Kenkel also is worried about the safety of laser liposuction. The lasers heat the skin to high temperatures, which can cause burns and scarring if not used properly, he said.
Chamsuddin thinks the risk of bruising is similar for laser and traditional liposuction. He thinks that the use of laser leads to more pain, however, because it causes tissue burns. In his study, most participants complained of cramping and burning sensations for several days after the procedure.
Although the price of laser liposuction varies, it is generally between $2,000 and $4,000 for the arms, belly and thighs. The price of traditional liposuction can be between $2,000 and $10,000 depending on the body area and facility where it is done, Kenkel said.
Most health insurance plans do not cover liposuction.
The findings of this study have not been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal and should be considered preliminary.