Orlando, Fla. — A popular noninvasive body contouring modality (ThermaCool™, Thermage®) may work best with a three-treatment approach, according to an expert.
"The Thermage® device does have an effect. It's modest at best in the vast majority of patients. However, I believe we have yet to figure out the best way to use this modality," says Dennis C. Hammond, M.D., director of the Center for Breast and Body Contouring, Grand Rapids, Mich.
To that end, Dr. Hammond, who estimates he's treated more than 40 patients with the device over a couple of years, has developed a strategy that involves three separate treatments, spaced two months apart.
Three the charm?
"We also use pulse stacking, which allows one to deliver two to three pulses right in a row, to try and augment the effect of the deep tissue heating" in an attempt to further accentuate the treatment's results, he adds.
At the same time, Dr. Hammond reports that he and his colleagues have begun using the three-treatment strategy in other areas of the body, most notably, the abdomen and arms of patients who have experienced massive weight loss.
"Again," he tells Cosmetic Surgery Times, "results in those areas are modest. But patients notice them, and invariably they're pleased."
Dr. Hammond says the device certainly will never approximate a surgical result, but one can't underestimate the importance to patients of the fact that it requires no surgery and leaves no scars.
"It's a nonoperative way to tighten the skin," he says.
Expecting a single treatment to provide any kind of reasonable result might be expecting too much from the technology, Dr. Hammond says.
"So we're trying to accentuate the results by using three treatments" while also making the treatment more cost effective for patients, he says.
"Right now," he explains, "the tips are pretty expensive — too expensive in my opinion."
A typical course of treatment costs $1,500 to $4,000, depending on how much area one treats and how many tips one uses, Dr. Hammond says.
Other issues include the fact that the device's manufacturer now makes larger tips, and Thermage® has cut the amount of time required for each tip to recycle, he adds.
"We like the bigger tips because they make the treatment regimen go faster," Dr. Hammond reports. Moreover, he recommends using newer "fast tips" because they enable the machine to reset itself more quickly.
"The technology is definitely advancing. And I'm hoping that if we continue to refine the technique, we will reach a point where we can increase not only the treatment's efficacy, but also its consistency from patient to patient," Dr. Hammond says.
As for complications, he says, "We haven't had any, other than the fact that a few patients have had results that weren't really worth the effort."