Whereas liposuction was once the primary treatment to trim body fat, newer techniques have emerged in recent years that provide noninvasive body contouring.
CoolSculpting is the most recognized as it’s received significant media attention, reports Dr. Mark McKenna, a physician and entrepreneur who regularly blogs about medical breakthroughs.
CoolSculpting and other alternatives target body fat by using energy, delivered as cold or heat, which damages and shrinks fat cells. These procedures are often promoted as liposuction alternatives or body contouring procedures.
Whereas liposuction involves downtime and is an invasive process, these non-invasive procedures make body contouring even gentler and safer.
Known as CoolSculpting, this procedure was first FDA approved in 2010, but gained media attention more recently as an alternative to liposuction. The technology is effective, and has removed stored fat in the belly, thighs, “bra bulge and love handles.”
CoolSculpting is a non-invasive procedure for resolving stubborn fat. The CoolMini was designed for hard to treat areas and bulges, such as under the chin and under the arm, explains Dr. Mark McKenna.
The procedure cools and freezes unwanted fat without damaging surrounding tissues. Once the fat has been frozen and crystallized from the treatment, the body will slowly break down the unwanted cells and dispose of them, resulting in gradual fat loss following the treatment.
The procedure takes about an hour. A specialized applicator is used to suction the tissue into a vacuum cup, where it is slowly chilled for an hour. Most patients experience little to no discomfort, and often read or work during the treatment. The tissues become numb soon after the procedure begins.
The injured fat cells are gradually eliminated by the body over 4 to 6 months. During that time the fatty bulge decreases in size, with an average fat reduction of about 20 percent.
CoolSculpting produces effective, yet subtle results, and is not ideal for large amounts of fat.
Injection lipolysis, known as Kybella, chemically reduces the numbers of fat cells around the injection site, reports Dr. Mark McKenna. The medication used is deoxycholic acid, which disrupts and kills fat cells. This procedure is currently FDA-approved for the area underneath the chin to eliminate a “double chin.”
The procedure is performed under local anesthesia, with the medication injected into a pre-marked area beneath the chin. Complications are uncommon but may include nerve injury resulting in an uneven smile. While there is no downtime, patients may experience bruising, redness, swelling, pain, and a feeling of hardness that softens with time. Fat reduction is typically visible by eight weeks.
For most patients, two treatments are necessary 4 to 6 weeks apart. Unless a patient gains weight, the results should be long-lasting.
In this procedure, known as Vanquish, radio frequency is used to heat the fat. There is no physical contact with the patient’s skin or impacting other types of cells in the skin. Patients with a localized fat are typically interested in radiofrequency lipolysis, explains Dr. Mark McKenna.
The risks are minimal, and the procedure is very successful in reducing the volume of fat in a fatty bulge. Patients may choose to have multiple areas treated or retreated. No anesthesia is necessary, and the procedure takes approximately thirty minutes; it will be repeated once per week for four weeks or as needed.
There may be mild erythema but generally there is no downtime. Patients who have had the abdomen treated have averaged a reduction of just under two inches, though the results will vary.
Laser lipolysis, known as Sculpsure, uses laser energy to heat fat cells without impacting other types of cells in the skin, says Dr. Mark McKenna. This treatment is appropriate for a localized fat bulge of the abdomen and flanks.
There is no anesthesia; the treatment area is marked to identify the site for applicator placement. The applicator is applied, and the patient feels a cooling sensation. The treatment takes just 25 minutes.
There are few reports of complications, and downtime is minimal. Patients may notice redness, tenderness or swelling. The results will gradually become visible over the first six weeks, then fully visible at three months.
As always with a plastic surgery procedure, patients must seek a board-certified plastic surgeon, states Dr. Mark McKenna. While non-plastic surgeons may perform these procedures, only a board-certified plastic surgeon is trained to perform the best procedure to help patients achieve the best results, whether surgical or nonsurgical.
Patients must be prepared to discuss their goals, any medical conditions, current medications and vitamin supplements, and previous surgeries. The plastic surgeon will evaluate the patient’s general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors, and take photographs.
The plastic surgeon will discuss the non-surgical treatment options, as well as surgical options, if the patient is interested. At that point, the surgeon will recommend a course of treatment – and discuss likely outcomes, as well as any risks.
It’s very important that patients understand all aspects of their fat reduction procedure. They must have realistic expectations of the results. It is important that they discuss all these factors with their plastic surgeon.
About Dr. Mark McKenna:
Dr. Mark McKenna is currently a member of Entrepreneurs Organization and is in the process of launching OVME a consumer-facing, technology-enabled, medical aesthetic company that hopes to reinvent elective healthcare. The patient advocate in Dr. Mark McKenna is always looking for solutions to todays medical problems.
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