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The Truth About Non-Surgical Body Contouring Methods. Do They Work?

I often get questions from patients wanting to know about a non-surgical way to reduce unwanted, localized fat deposits and cellulite. People are sometimes put off by liposuction/body contouring surgery because of cost, downtime, or fear of complications.

Many times, these patients are inquiring about a procedure known as Mesotherapy.

What is Mesotherapy
Mesotherapy is touted as a non-surgical method to remove fat and cellulite deposits. The procedure involves the injection of an unstandardized, and proprietary (to the mesotherapist) “cocktail” of vitamins, herbs, drugs (not necessarily FDA approved for this procedure), amino acids, local anesthetics, and more; into the targeted area.

Mesotherapy injections supposedly work by targeting fat cells, rupturing the cell, thus causing the fat cells to die. The theory is that the fat will then get washed out of your system through your body’s normal waste disposal.

Often times, a series of 10 – 15 injections are the recommended course of treatment. At $500 per injection, the cost is significant, especially for a procedure that may not work.

Does Mesotherapy Work?
The short answer is probably not.

Although Mesotherapy has been in use throughout Europe, and South America for approximately 50 years, there have been no true studies proving that it works. Proponents point to a 1995 UCLA study that showed positive results; however, since the Mesotherapy “cocktail” isn’t standardized, it would be hard to draw any conclusions between that study, and the treatment administered by a particular practitioner.

In some cases, not only does Mesotherapy not work, it can be harmful. A drug called phosphatidylcholine (used to treat liver problems and high blood pressure as well as break down fat deposits on artery walls) is sometimes used in Mesotherapy. Studies conducted in Brazil showed such a high incidence of hepatitis and liver failure in patients treated with a Mesotherapy “cocktail” that included phosphatidylcholine that the drug was subsequently made illegal in that country.

Then What Does Work?
There are also several interesting non-surgical methods that either are available now, or should be available soon.

  • Liposonix ® and UltraShape ® are both ultrasound based lipoplasty methods currently being reviewed by the FDA (neither has been approved as of yet). If approved, ultrasound-based lipoplasty (which uses an external ultrasound device to target and destroy fat cells) may offer patients a convenient non-surgical alternative to traditional liposuction.
  • Triactive – TriActive uses a combination of massage and diode lasers to smooth and tighten cellulite. 10 – 15 treatments may be needed. Results are long-lasting, but temporary.
  • Velasmooth – This FDA approved treatment combines massage with infrared energy and radio frequency (RF) energy. The procedure works by heating skin to increase skin tightening and stimulate collagen while breaking up fat cells. Results are long-lasting, but temporary.
  • Accent RF – Accent uses a type of RF energy that heats deeper layers of skin to create better skin tightening and increase fat cell drainage. 6 – 8 treatments are necessary, with results seen in 3 to 6 months. The FDA has approved Accent RF as a non-invasive wrinkle treatment, but not specifically for cellulite removal at this time. Results are long-lasting, but temporary.

As of now, Liposuction remains the only approved, permanent fat reducing method available. We know that liposuction works. It’s safe when performed by a qualified plastic surgeon, there are measurable results to back it up, and the the fat reduction is permanent.

Contact me by e-mail, or by calling me at The Adams Center in my Peabody office at 978-531-0550, or 617-262-2208 in my Boston office for more information on this post, or any other information in my Blog.

Dr. Bill Adams is a greater Boston area board certified plastic surgeon with over 25 years of experience in the field.