Each year, over 150,000 people get non-surgical fat reduction performed, and not just women. Nearly 30,000 men go for the procedure as well. Non-surgical fat removal is a less invasive alternative to “regular” liposuction, but does it work? The answer is more complex than a simple yes or no.
How does it compare to regular liposuction?
Non-surgical fat removal is also often called “non-surgical” liposuction, but really, it isn’t liposuction at all. Traditional liposuction is a surgical procedure, involving small incisions in which a tube is inserted into a fatty area. The fat is then “sucked out” through the tube, resulting in permanent removal of those fat cells. Liposuction can be used on large areas where there are significant fat deposits and may be effective after just one procedure, but because liposuction is a surgery, there is some recovery time with swelling, pain and a risk of infection.
Non-surgical liposuction can be one of a number of procedures which use lasers, heat, cooling or sound waves to “destroy” fat cells where they will be removed by the body as metabolic products. Non-surgical liposuction generally has less-to-no recovery time but it isn’t effective on large areas of fat. Its use should be limited to small, stubborn areas that remain after an adequate dietary and exercise program is undertaken or to patients who cannot undergo surgery. In order to be fully effective, multiple treatments may be required.
Types of non-surgical liposuction
Non-surgical fat removal is done in the cosmetic surgeon’s clinic, using one of a number of proprietary or “brand name” procedures. Brand names like “Exilis,” “i-Lipo,” “Liposonix” and “Zeltiq” or Cool Sculpting, each uses a different type of treatment which may be laser or light-assisted, cryo or freezing therapy, or sound through ultrasound or radiofrequency. Each type works to destroy the cell membranes surrounding fat cells which over time, may appear to “melt” the fat away.
Pros and Cons of non-surgical fat reduction
Pros: Non-surgical fat reduction is just what it says, non-surgical. There are no incisions done which means a non-invasive procedure with less recovery time required, less swelling and pain and a greatly reduced chance for post-procedure complications such as infection. It doesn’t usually require a lot of pre-procedure preparation and can often be done during the day with a quick return to normal activities.
Cons: The actual fat reduction takes place over a number of weeks to months and several treatments may be required. It can also be more difficult for the physician to target treatments and may need to use a less optimal type in difficult areas or those with a good deal of scar tissue. Targeting may also be tricky as the physician cannot immediately “see” where fat destruction has been effective and must wait for additional treatment periods to refine the effects. Non-surgical fat reduction does not produce immediately dramatic results and is not effective in people who need large sections of fat removed.
Liposuction, under expert guidance, is highly effective, more accurate and can be used in a variety of conditions. Newer ultrasound-assisted procedures have enabled cosmetic surgeons to be highly accurate in fat removal with a minimum of post-surgical complications. In general, liposuction is considered to be much more effective, but non-surgical fat removal can be a good alternative for those who simply need a little additional help for some stubborn spots – or can be the only alternative if surgery is not possible. So, yes, non -surgical fat removal works for the right patient but it does not compare to traditional liposuction. Non-invasive alternatives to fat removal, of course, bring limited results, so it’s important to discuss with your surgeon what the true body contour changes will be, as opposed to expectations from ads. In the end, the search for the Holy Grail of non- invasive body sculpting continues!