Meg Farris / Medical Reporter
NEW ORLEANS - Anti-aging technology just got better. Now a machine promises to not only tighten the skin, but also lift it.
It takes nothing more than a quick office visit and no down time.
So is the treatment and cost right for you?
Right after Hurricane Katrina, Paula Collums felt weight loss made her face look saggy. So facial plastic surgeon Dr. Felix Bopp performed a face lift. But now at 62 years old, she's beginning to see a change.
"I started noticing right in this area, loose skin. Just looked tired to me. And he said that this might be a good idea to address that problem," said Collums pointing to the jowl area on her face.
So she turned to Bopp again, but not for surgery. This time for the latest technology to hit the market.
It's called Ulthera, an ultrasound device that has FDA approval to tighten and lift face and neck skin.
"It's totally newer than anything we've been doing with the radio frequency or the lasers. Both of those treatments are very superficial in the dermis, epidermis (layers of the skin). But this device penetrates much deeper to the fascia layer which is the same layer I lift when I'm doing a face lift and it creates a tightening effect at that layer," explained Bopp.
Here's how it works. The face and bones are marked and measured with a white pencil. Then, just like in the dentist's office, the doctor numbs your face with a topical before the tiny needle injections are used. Gel is rubbed on the skin, then the machine shows the technician exactly where to deliver the thermal energy. The first pass goes deep to lift. The second more shallow pass, helps skin texture and lines. There's an instant effect. Then full effect can be seen over a few months as the skin, stimulated by the heat, builds new collagen. That is what's lost mostly from sun and tanning beds. The good news is you only need one treatment. Bopp's wife and business partner, dermatologist Dr. Barbara Bopp tried the Ulthera.
"I'm seeing a little lift and like a change in my skin, a change in the structure of my face, and again it's only been a month and a half, two months and I still have another month to go and I know more re-modeling's going to take place," said Barbara S. Bopp.
An office laser technician remembers what happen when she only treated one side of her face.
"So on the side that we did half, I looked uneven to it, to the point to everyone did notice a change but could not quite pinpoint what that change was. But yes, there was a change," said Christine Thompson, a Bopp Dermatology laser technician.
She later did the other side with the nerve block. But when the office first tired the Ulthera, she did it without numbing anesthesia and said it was too painful to do the other side that same day.
But Collums says with the nerve block, she was fine.
Two tears ago, New Orleans dermatologist Dr. Mary Lupo evaluated the Ulthera. Her test patients found if very painful without numbing. One-third had some bruising afterward.
"I certainly think that there is science behind the device. It gives modest improvement and it is an option for the patient wanting to avoid surgery. As long as that patient understands that you can not duplicate the results of a face lift with any of these devices (lasers, radio frequency), I think there's a place for these devises," said Lupo.
"The studies have been positive on ultrasound, again because it delivers energy deeply into the skin. It does cause that tissue contraction," added Metairie dermatologist Dr. Patricia Farris.
Felix Bopp said he has not seen bruising in this version of the Ulthera. He says what's key is picking the ideal patient. People in their 40s, 50s and 60s are best. Older people who need, but don't want surgery, can benefit. People with a lot of fat under the skin won't see as much of an effect. The machine is color blind, so it won't hurt pigment nor will it keep a man's beard from growing in. Bopp likes what a Seattle colleague is finding.
"He does 10 a week and he said that 100 percent of patients saw improvement and that's what I was looking for. Now, some of them saw more than others. Some of them saw wow improvement and some just saw some improvement, but they all saw improvement," he said.
So far there have been no permanent complications. Some patients had temporary nerve tingling, weakness or numbness. But for Collums, this quick treatment was all the rejuvenation she wanted.
There are now 33 different studies going on trying to see if the Ulthera will tighten skin on other parts of the body, such as the arms, knees and abdomen.
The cost is $1,500 for either the mid-face, neck, or forehead. If you have all three areas done, the cost at Bopp's office is $4,000.
There are doctors using the Ulthera in Metairie, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Biloxi.
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