Jeffrey Frentzen

As the plastic surgery industry climbs out of the economic recession, one thing becomes clear: Despite disappointing financial performances among some manufacturers in the aesthetic medicine market, the future looks very bright.

In this year’s edition of PSP ’s Buyer’s Guide, we list many of the firms that continue to pioneer and push back boundaries on what it possible in aesthetic technology. Primarily, I want to focus on lasers here, but as you thumb through the book in your hands (or on your screen), the wide range of product categories and varieties of innovation are well represented by these companies and organizations.

The Buyer’s Guide is a premier resource for all practitioners who want to easily locate product vendors and their Web sites. In this edition, we have made subtle aesthetic changes—in typography and layout—to our presentation of companies and products.

Between last year’s Buyer’s Guide and Spring 2011, innovation and technology have marched on undeterred. The atmosphere of inventiveness and invention persists among institutions/organizations and corporations. This bodes well for plastic and cosmetic surgeons. In many cases, aesthetic practitioners are the ones who are inventing and innovating.

This trend of technology growth can be found beyond the purview of plastic surgeons. In the skin care arena, for example, recent scientific breakthroughs and rethinkings of ingredients and formulations have had a huge positive impact on the industry, even beyond aesthetics and dermatology. This bodes well for the future. Another example is the expected increase in the number of Botox competitors. This phenomenon is another type of expansion in the marketplace.

Last year at this time, you will recall that the MEP-90 Hair Growth Stimulation System, manufactured by Midwest RF LLC, Hartland, Wis, received a 501(k) pass from the FDA for prescription use. It is a device that uses low-level laser therapy (LLLT) to treat female pattern hair loss. The technology behind LLLT is solid. As it is applied in products for consumer use, LLLT is still considered an experimental treatment by some.

Pro or con, the MEP-90 is the type of product we will be seeing more of, and patients will ask about it. The savvy practitioner should be thoroughly up-to-date on all the details and research. On a business and medical level, the handheld laser device could be a good treatment option for your patients.

Finding New Uses

On the technological front, aesthetic lasers have quietly gone through a revolutionary (or perhaps evolutionary) change in recent history. Ultimately, it comes down to the physician having an increased number of options, to do more treatments to more patients using a single device (as opposed to, say, two or three).

The underlying technology has not changed significantly, but there has been a refinement of how to apply lasers to patients. “New modalities” is the operative phrase I have heard around the industry for a few years now, and practitioners are by and large happy with the improved technology. The components inside these devices have become smaller, more efficient, and programmable. Though the range of treatment options has increased, the size of the hardware for those treatments has decreased.

It remains to be seen how well the MEP-90 takes to the home use market. That marketplace, incidentally, is expected to explode exponentially over the next few years. For now, this device joins Rogaine (2% Minoxidil) as the only FDA-approved treatment for female pattern hair loss. Clearly, the device’s small form factor will be attractive for use by both patients and physicians.

I hold up this laser as an example of how the improvements and refinements in aesthetic laser technology are in flux. Outside the LLLT and home-use laser product area, aesthetic laser manufacturers are leading in technology advancement. Candela/Syneron, Viora, Eclipse, Zeltiq, Palomar, Sciton, SST, and others have been pushing through cutting-edge devices. Make sure your product(s) of choice are backed by solid scientific research and evidence.

Until Next Time

Back inside the plastic surgery practice, the business of aesthetic medicine is becoming more challenging on all fronts. Practices are consolidating, partnering with other practices or groups, branching out in some geographical locations, and cutting back in others. Then there is the solo practice that is on its own amid the competition. The biggest issue facing all—and the latter group in particular—is this: The industry is seeing a large influx of noncore practitioners who have taken on cosmetic treatments. We shall leave a discussion of that topic for another day.

It is very important to recognize the pros and cons of this last development and how it will affect the quality of service and reputation, overall, of the field and the public perception of plastic and cosmetic surgery.