Conventional liposuction, a surgical procedure, gained a lot of popularity in removing pockets of fat from the abdomen, waists, flanks, thighs and many other body parts. It was the most performed cosmetic surgery in America in 2011 according to the statistics of The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).There are however some people who wish to lose fat but like to stay away from surgeries. For them, undergoing a non-invasive procedure may be the option.

Several non-invasive procedures for fat removal have been introduced in the market, but a very few have received FDA approval and some were unable to get acceptance of the doctors and patients.

Some of these non-invasive procedures for fat removal are:

Laser treatment – Zerona, a low level laser device, providing treatment for fat removal came into the market a few years back and had an initial flurry of treatments before its effectiveness came into question. However, some of the first few treatments on the flanks (love handles) reportedly brought noticeable results of fat removal including some amount of skin tightening.

The laser equipment which was earlier used to relieve pain after breast augmentation and conventional liposuction procedures was cleared by FDA for “reduction of circumference of hips, waists and thighs” in 2010. The procedure is designed to emulsify the cellular fat which then seeps out into the inter-cellular spaces and is processed by the body for absorption or excretion. It seems that, among other things, FDA was not fully sure of the way the body handled the emulsified fat eventually.

The procedure was said to have caused burn injuries to patients due the lack of training and inexperience of the personnel handling the laser equipment. It also was stated to cause uneven removal of fat and scars in the skin and fat layer. Though the procedure had some initial success, today the procedure reportedly is not used by most of the board certified surgeons.

Lipodissolve – Injections came into the market to melt and remove body fat by injecting chemicals (phosphatidylcholine and deoxycholate) which, unfortunately, was unable to permeate into all of the fat layers in the body, resulting in irregular fat removal including creation of knots and skin deformation, inflammation and pain. The procedure is supposed to melt the fat into liquid form which is then supposed to get flushed out by the body naturally.

The procedure was not approved by FDA for fat removal. In fact in 2010, FDA issued warning to the companies using the lipodissolve procedure from claiming that the substances used are safe and effective, have an outstanding safety record and are superior to other fat-loss procedures, including liposuction.

FDA also stated that it received reports of permanent scarring, skin deformation and deep, painful knots under the skin in areas where lipodissolve treatments were injected”.

Cool Sculpting- Cryolipolysis (popularly called cool sculpting) is a trade mark of a procedure in which the small pockets of fat in hips, love handles, thighs and abdomen are frozen into rectangular shapes. This is done by pinching the fat layer and then pulling it inside the hand piece of the equipment by suction and then subjecting the fat to its freezing temperature for one hour. The frozen fat is then massaged back to its original shape.

The fat eventually dies and is metabolized by the body in a few months time. The results may take about 2 to 4 months to be evident. The procedure was cleared by FDA in 2010.

The procedure causes redness, bruising, swelling and some pain which should go away within a few days to a few weeks. Compression garment may be worn to control swelling, if necessary. A patient has to go through two sessions of one hour each to reduce fat by about 20%. More sessions may be required under doctor’s advice if further fat removal is necessary.

Ultrasound treatment- Liposonix system providingHigh Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) technology for “waist circumference reduction” by removing pockets of fat from the waist including love handles was cleared by FDA in 2011. The device directs the ultra sound energy at the fat pocket about 1 to 2 cm below the skin and the disrupted fat cells then travel to the liver through the  body’s natural system and get metabolized. The results take about 8 to 12 weeks to appear and by about 24 weeks the final results become apparent.

A single one hour treatment with liposonix system may lead to about 4.6 cm of waist reduction. The treatment is likely to cause some amount of redness, bruising, swelling and pain. Wearing compression garment to control swelling and taking medication for pain relief are prescribed.

Non invasive procedure or Liposuction– Which one to choose for removing pockets of fat?

 A Non invasive procedure may be chosen:

i)     If the patient is not comfortable with surgery for cosmetic reasons.

ii)    If the patient has a few and small pockets of fat.

iii)   If the patient wants to control expenses; but if required, may return for more sessions.

iv)   If the patient cannot afford long down time.

v)    If the doctor (s) after examining the patient recommends such procedure.

Liposuction may be chosen if

i)       If the patient has several and comparatively larger fat pockets.

ii)      If the patient wishes to have substantial and striking results.

iii)     If the patient wishes to have long lasting results.

iv)    If the patient is willing to accept reasonable risks of a surgery and some amount of down time.

v)     If the doctor(s) after examining the patient recommends liposuction.