Non-Surgical Liposuction: The Benefits and Risks of New Procedures
Many who watch their caloric intake and exercise regularly hit a weight-loss plateau and/or are unable to reduce fat in certain places, leading to unsightly belly fat, saddlebags and love handles.
How can one reduce this stubborn fat? And is there a way to do so without the pain, downtime and sometimes non-uniform results of traditional and invasive liposuction procedures?
People are increasingly finding the body they once had with non-surgical liposuction. Three leading procedures have emerged:
i-Lipo is a system that uses photobiomodulation to stimulate the release of excess calories (fat) stored in adipose cells. Also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), photobiomodulation is a medical technique that uses LLLT in the form of infrared light that causes a cell’s mitochondria to release fat without any change to diet and exercise and without causing cellular damage. Patients can expect results of losing 1-2 dress sizes during their course of treatments.
The Problem: i-Lipo doesn’t remove fat cells but rather causes a temporary release of fat, which requires the patient to return for the procedure on a regular basis unless they are able to make significant changes in their habits to keep from gaining weight again.
Zerona utilizes cold laser technology to release the cellular contents of fat cells without causing damage to other cells. The release of fat cell contents is the result of the disruption of the cell’s membrane, called a transitory pore. Within minutes of low-level laser exposure, fat cells begin to develop transitory pores, allowing the evacuation of the cell’s contents into extracellular space. Once the contents of the fat cell have been emptied, they are released into interstitial space where it can be passed through the body during its normal course of detoxification. Patients can expect to lose an average of 3-4 inches from the circumference of their waist, hip and thighs.
The Problem: as with i-Lipo, Zerona doesn’t remove fat cells but only causes a temporary release of fat. Additionally, patients often have to have six treatments over a two-week period. Nutritional supplements are also recommended for purchase, as well as a diet and exercise program, for results to be seen.
CoolSculpting is a non-surgical, cryolipolysis procedure developed by dermatologists at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, which is a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Cryolipolysis reduces fat tissue instead of just shrinking fat cells by using a targeted cooling process that kills fat cells underneath the skin by freezing them to the point of elimination-a process called apoptosis. The dead fat cells are then naturally eliminated from your body through the lymphatic system. No knives, needles or scars are involved.
The idea for cryolipolysis is based on a phenomenon called “popsicle panniculitis,” named after the freezing and destruction of fat cells in the checks as a result of contact with popsicles. This was first noticed by dimpling in the cheeks of children eating popsicles.
CoolSculpting typically leads to a 20-25% reduction in fat. Ideal candidates for this procedure are within 10-20 pounds of their ideal body weight according to the BMI-body mass index. The process takes about an hour per fat area. The applicator is placed for an hour on each side for love handles, for example. Patients have reported no pain and little discomfort, though they will feel vacuum pressure and a bit of pulling and tugging. The area becomes numb once the temperature reaches 12° C. Patients can watch TV or work on their iPad during the procedure.
Afterwards, the area may feel a bit firm, possibly a bit tender or sore, but typically returns to normal the next day. Patients usually start seeing results as early as three weeks but much more so over three months as the fat tissue shrinks down over time. There are no reported side effects, tissue damage or non-uniform results. This is usually achieved in one session, though additional sessions may be needed on a case-by-case basis.
Because of its minimal downside, medical offices and medical spas are increasingly turning to cryolipolysis over other non-surgical liposuction procedures, i-Lipo and Zerona-especially as there are no special supplements, dietary restrictions or exercise needed to see results.