Above: A clinical trial of Ultherapy with the new 1.5mm trandsducer is performed on a local patient by Dr Vanessa Phua (right).
Ultrasounds are usually associated with pregnancy screenings and other health scans. However, ultrasound energy can also be used in aesthetic medicine to firm and lift saggy skin.
Known as Ultherapy, this non-invasive treatment combines ultrasound imaging with the delivery of ultrasound energy. One major advantage of this is that doctors can see the layers of skin tissue during treatment and ensure that energy is delivered to where it would be most effective.
How it works
In Ultherapy, ultrasound energy is transmitted through applicator tips, called transducers, into the deeper dermis and the superficial muscular aponeurotic system (SMAS) layer to stimulate the production of collagen. "This tightens the mid to deep dermis, triggering a rejuvenation response by the means of a subclinical inflammatory reaction in the skin," explains Dr Vanessa Phua, a physician who specialises in aesthetic treatments at Asia HealthPartners.
In layman's terms, Ultherapy creates controlled damage in the deeper layers of the skin - up to 4.5mm below the skin's surface - so as to trigger the production of new collagen that results in a firming and 'lifting' effect on the skin over the next 12 weeks.
It is one of the few aesthetic procedures that can trigger such an effect without damaging the surface layer of the skin. This means that lifting effects can be achieved with no downtime, and patients are able to return to their daily activities without worrying about open wounds or scabs.
However, the original transducers were not meant for the delicate areas around the eyes, as the skin there is the thinnest. To treat the peri-orbital area safely and effectively, Ulthera Inc devised a shallower transducer - reaching only to a depth of 1.5mm - that could specifically target the more superficial layers of skin.
A prototype of this new transducer was tested in clinical trials in Asia as well as America, involving over 100 patients in Asia alone. 15 patients in Singapore took part in the trials which were conducted at Asia HealthPartners. According to Dr Phua, all 15 trial subjects saw "varying amount of improvement of their eyelid skin", with a reduction in the amount of wrinkling of the treated skin.
YourHealth was invited to witness one of the trial sessions, in which a 58-year-old patient was treated with the prototype for the loose and saggy skin around her eyes. Madam S.K. Lim reported that the pain factor from the treatment was negligible, taking into account that she took a strong painkiller and had anesthetic cream applied prior to the treatment. When she returned for a review a week later, there was a significant lifting of the skin around her eyes, which made her look more refreshed and alert.
Six months on from the initial treatment, the skin around Mdm Lim's eyes still appear less saggy than before. She told YourHealth that she is pleased with the results, adding that her family had also commented that she looks more refreshed.
According to the manufacturer, results from a single session of Ultherapy last 12 months on average. In some cases, results may last up to two years.
Dr Phua pointed out that results vary between individuals due lifestyle habits and whether or not they have a proper skincare regimen. Genetics also plays a role, as the effects of Ultherapy are only lost through natural ageing. "In general, if your elder family members look young for their age, chances are that the effects from Ultehra should last longer for yourself," she said.
The new 1.5mm transducer for Ultherapy was launched at Asia HealthPartners late last month. It is suitable for treating crow's feet, wrinkles and sagging skin around the eyes, as well as the skin around the mouth area. A treatment for the eye area costs $1,500 onwards. Ultherapy has been approved by the US Federal Drug Administration.
Ultherapy is available at Asia HealthPartners (Tel: 6235 7888 / E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).