Victoria plastic surgeon introduces new liposuction to Crossroads

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Feb. 27, 2012 at 6 p.m.
Updated Feb. 26, 2012 at 8:27 p.m.

Dr. Gary Branfman jokes with his technicians while inserting a cannula into the fat layer of a patient during liposuction surgery. "Even with all this schmaltz," he said, using the Yiddish word for chicken fat, "I wouldn't make matzoh ball soup." Pop music also plays on the radio during the procedure to help concentration and keep a positive mood.

Dr. Gary Branfman jokes with his technicians while inserting a cannula into the fat layer of a patient during liposuction surgery. "Even with all this schmaltz," he said, using the Yiddish word for chicken fat, "I wouldn't make matzoh ball soup." Pop music also plays on the radio during the procedure to help concentration and keep a positive mood.   Todd Krainin for The Victoria Advocate

The melody of a synthesized violin intro to Guns N' Roses' "November Rain" faintly plays in the incandescent surgical room at Victoria Surgery Center.

For a second, you may think the doctor in the room, Dr. Gary Branfman, is bowing the violin himself - because his right hand eases back and forth. Instead, his motion only clearly mimics the song. What he's really doing is performing liposuction with the latest non-invasive technology on the market.

The new liposuction tool is called Tickle Lipo because its vibrating cannula, according to patients, tickles in anesthetized parts of the body.

For Branfman, who has been in the cosmetic and plastic surgery profession for 21 years, technology like this is nothing short of futuristic.



Understanding liposuction

"There's that chocolate bar," Branfman said teasing his patient as he performed the liposuction. "And there is that chocolate fudge sundae!"

"No, that's all butter," the woman said, laughing. "It actually does tickle."

The 58-year-old Victoria resident, who the Advocate granted anonymity because of the nature of the surgery, has had cosmetic surgery before, but she's one of the few who has had this newer type of liposuction in Victoria, Branfman said.

The technology has been in Victoria for only about a month, and for three months, Branfman observed and practiced with a surgeon in San Antonio.

After watching the surgery for the first time, Branfman was almost sold.

Not only was the type of method non-invasive, but it would keep the Victoria medical community on the map by continuing to raise the technological bar.

So far, Tickle Lipo is available in Austin, Brownsville, Dallas, Ennis, Fort Worth, Houston, Keller, McAllen, Livingston, Midland, Plano, San Marcos, Spring and now in Victoria.

"It took me a long time to decide whether it was worth it," he said. "It is worth it for the patient. The patient is much happier."

What makes this Tickle Lipo different from conventional liposuction?

First off, conventional liposuction equipment costs under $5,000, but Tickle Lipo cost Branfman $75,000.

Despite the rather large cost gap, conventional liposuction costs about $6,000 per area, while surgery with Branfman costs just under $3,000 per area, such as a stomach or chest.

Not to mention recovery time for conventional liposuction patients is a bit longer because the cannula is more than an inch thick compared to the Tickle Lipo, which is only millimeters thick. Also, conventional lip comes with some bruising and soreness.

With Tickle Lipo, all these effects do not exist, Branfman said.

"It's such a better machine than what we've ever had before," he said.



How it works

Branfman slowly works the several millimeter cannula through an incision near the woman's flanks.

First off, the patient feels pressure because the cannula is inserting a mix of fluids and lidocaine, to numb the area.

Then after several minutes, the lipo begins. The cannula is filled with air pressure as opposed to heat, which is why recovery time after the surgery is about 30 minutes, Branfman said.

The entire process is not traumatic, and the patient can even speak as the plastic surgeon removes fat from the body.

It's important to know that liposuction is not a weight loss method, but rather a way to contour the body, Branfman said.

The ease and growing popularity of the procedure has even been broadcast on shows like "Good Morning America" and "The Doctors," according to the Tickle Lip website.

But why hasn't every plastic surgeon jumped on the non-invasive bandwagon?

"It's expensive," Branfman said. "They can do it the old fashion way and make more money off it."

Looking at the finances, it's obvious that it is easier to break even on a $5,000 machine than it is on a $75,000 machine, he said.

But it's not about the money, Branfman said.

"We have to keep up with technology in order to be doing the best thing for our patients," he said.


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