Can a new cutting edge procedure and technology rival a face lift without the pain, bruising and downtime?
The latest idea in cosmetic procedures may soon come to the New Orleans area.
Mary Ann Elliott of Ridgeland, Mississippi, and another woman, from northeast Louisiana who does not want to give her name - each in her early 60's - decided it was time for a change. But neither wanted a face lift.
"The idea of being out for a long time, like three to six weeks recovery time, I work and I just did not want to use all my vacation time to do something like that right now," said Elliott.
"I just started noticing things about my face that I really wasn't happy about. I started looking tired and didn't have that fresh look," said the other patient.
So they turned to Dr. George Smith, a facial plastic surgeon in the Jackson, Mississippi metro area, for a brand new procedure.
"The ideal patient is that patient who is noticing that loss of the jaw line, that fullness in the neck and that fullness around the mouth. And it works very well for them," said Dr. Smith who runs a clinical practice called "Faces" in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
Dr. Smith is one of only about 30 doctors in the U.S. doing the AccuLift. It's a new version of the older Smart Lipo or Laser Lipo. Using a very thin instrument with a precision laser at the tip, it enters the skin through a tiny needle puncture in the lower face, requiring no stitches. First, the fat is liquefied and removed. Then the laser tightens the skin. Patients just have a local anesthesia, like one at the dentist's office. Only a teaspoon of fat is removed from each jowl as the doctor contours and reshapes the neck, jaw line, lower cheeks and area near the smile lines. There's no pain during the 45-minute office procedure. There is very little bruising and patients are back to work the next day. It then takes six months to get the full tightening effect.
"Now it's not a face lift and it's not going to give you the same results, but it's going to vastly improve the lower face and give you a nice neckline and jaw line which is one of the real things we seek, even in face lift surgery," Dr. Smith explained.
Dr. Smith says the change is subtle and natural looking, but not every one with loose skin is a candidate.
"That's the key to it, patient selection," said Dr. Smith. "You know the person who has had tremendous amount of sun, lots of sun damage, leathery skin, this operation is not for them. This is not going to work for them."
The procedure has not come to New Orleans yet but some local doctors are familiar with it. Metairie plastic surgeon Dr. Stephen Metzinger studied under one of the creators of the AccuLift. He is now considering it and says this laser is gentle, so there is less probability of complications and side effects.
"It's not the same thing as a face lift. It's for improvement, but for the first time, to my knowledge, you're using laser lipolysis and skin tightening simultaneously and that's pretty cool," said Dr. Metzinger.
But he stresses the importance of using a doctor who has practice and good skills. Dr. Smith has done more than 50 cases and stops at the cheek mound. But there is a case, by another doctor, where the laser was used higher up and the patient's lower lids were burned.
Metairie plastic surgeon Dr. Cynthia Mizgala, has been using the previous method of SmartLipo on all areas of the body and has gotten good results. She worked on identical twin patients who had their necks done on the same day.
"I was in the morning, she was in the afternoon and I'm really impressed with mine," said Janet Taylor about her sister.
"Me too. It's great, absolutely great," said Patty Poynter.
When asked if people are noticing the difference Poynter adds, "Yes, yes!"
"It's an excellent technique for tightening that banding in the lax skin that starts to form in our 40’s and 50's. And it's a very quick way to tighten that. It's been, again, very dramatic," said Dr. Mizgala.
Now she is looking into the new AccuLift technology to use it higher up on the lower part of the face. Still, both Doctors Mizgala and Metzinger want to see more studies.
Metairie plastic surgeon Dr. Kamran Khoobehi agrees that AccuLift is best for certain patients, not ones with very thin faces and poor skin tone.
One concern about using Laser Lipo in the face, or any kind of laser that is going to melt the fat in the face, is that what we see with aging process is that we lose the fat in the face. And if you look at the plastic surgery right now, the biggest thing, the hottest thing, is fat injections to face," said Dr. Khoobehi.
Dr. Smith's patients are satisfied with their subtle new look.
"Tightening of the skin, my neck is much better than it was before, and just, it gets more tightening everyday," said Elliott with a smile.
"The lady who teaches across the hall, she looked at me and said, 'I like your hair' and I said, 'Well thank you,' and she said, 'You've done something different,' " the patient from northeast Louisiana recounted with a knowing smile.
The AccuLift costs less than $2,000 and is FDA approved for both men and women 20 to 70 years old. Because men's skin is thicker, it takes a little longer for the tightening effect.