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Nonsurgical Alternatives to Liposuction Promise Easier Fat Removal

Nonsurgical Alternatives to Liposuction Promise Easier Fat Removal


A new nonsurgical cosmetic procedure, performed with a proprietary low-intensity laser device, promises the fat reduction benefit of liposuction without any of the drawbacks associated with plastic surgery. Three other nonsurgical systems, two using ultrasound and one using cellular cooling, are being used in other countries and awaiting U.S. approval.

The Zerona® system by Erchonia Medical of McKinney, Texas, uses a low-level laser to emulsify the tissue within fat cells, allowing it to escape through the cell walls and be carried away by the lymphatic system. Unlike surgical fat removal, the purely surface procedure requires no recovery.

Location of Fat Cells Allows Low-Level Laser Treatment

According to Erchonia, the location of fat cell deposits just under the skin allows effective treatment with the low-level laser, also known as a cold laser. Patients say they don't feel a thing during their 40-minute treatment sessions.

The LipoSonix® system, from Medicis Technologies of Bothell, Wash., uses ultrasound to eliminate fat cells. According to company literature, the high-energy ultrasound generated by its device is able to target only the fat cells, eliminating them permanently, without disturbing other cells.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved the LipoSonix® system for marketing in this country; it has been approved for use in Canada and the European Union.

The Israeli company UltraShape, Ltd., also markets an ultrasound device outside the United States. Like the LipoSonix® device, it promises permanent elimination of fat cells without affecting other cells.

Company Claims Cooling of Fat Cells is Less Disruptive

Zeltiq Aesthetics, Inc., of Pleasanton, Calif., claims its system, using a technology it calls Cryolipolysis® to perform a procedure it calls CoolSculpting®, provides a gentler way of eliminating fat cells than using lasers or ultrasound. The company claims the latter two methods generate heat to kill fat cells and may damage adjacent cells, whereas its system cools fat cells, triggering their natural elimination by the body, without affecting other cells.

According to the Zeltiq Web site, its system has received FDA approval only for skin cooling as part of certain dermatological treatments; the company has applied for approval to market the device for "fat layer reduction." It is being marketed in Canada, the European Union, and elsewhere.

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