Soliton, a company based in Houston, Texas, has developed an acoustic shockwave device to assist in laser tattoo removal. At present, laser tattoo removal takes a significant number of sessions, with long waits between visits and a significant overall cost. This new device aims to allow numerous laser passes per session, and the company claims that tattoos can be removed in as little as two to three sessions. The acoustic shockwave technology may also be useful for fat and cellulite removal, and Soliton is currently investigating these applications.
Soliton reports that over 70 million people in the U.S. have tattoos, and of these, over 50% have considered tattoo removal. However, laser tattoo removal is lengthy, painful and expensive, which deters many people. At present, it can take 10 or more sessions, spread over a one to two year period, to remove tattoos using conventional laser techniques.
One of the major issues with laser tattoo removal is its limited efficacy. Once a laser targets pigment agglomerations in the skin, including pigment-laden white blood cells, they break apart and disperse, or become less visible. However, a single laser session usually results in only an 11–16% reduction in pigment in the treated area, and then a six-week waiting period between sessions is required to allow the skin to heal.
The major problem is that the laser misses most of the pigment in each pass. The laser needs a line-of-sight to the pigment-containing structures, and therefore only hits the uppermost pigment agglomerations in each pass. However, after just one laser pass, steam vacuoles are created in the tissue, shielding lower areas of pigment from further laser passes. Typically, these need to be reabsorbed by the body before further laser treatment will be effective.
This is where Soliton’s rapid acoustic pulse (RAP) device comes in. It uses acoustic pulses to disrupt vacuoles in the tissue and helps to further disperse pigment agglomerates. The concept involves treating the area with the RAP device between laser passes, meaning that multiple passes with a laser can be performed in each session, helping to greatly reduce the amount of pigment remaining in the tissue.
Soliton has conducted a clinical trial to confirm the effectiveness of the RAP device in assisting tattoo removal. However, preclinical data indicate that the technology may also be useful in assisting fat and cellulite removal techniques and preclinical testing is ongoing for these applications.