Cosmetic Dermatology

Advances in Minimally Invasive and Noninvasive Treatments for Submental Fat

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Submental fat (SMF) accumulation is a cosmetically distressing concern for which there have been recent advances in minimally invasive and noninvasive therapeutic options. In this article, we review the newest treatments available for SMF, including laser-assisted lipolysis (LAL), radiofrequency (RF)–assisted lipolysis, deoxycholic acid (DCA), and noninvasive devices. These treatments provide additional options for patients seeking nonsurgical approaches to treatment of SMF.

Practice Points

  • New developments in minimally invasive techniques for treating submental adiposity include laser-assisted and radiofrequency-assisted lipoplasty with demonstrated clinical benefit and acceptable safety.
  • Noninvasive treatments for submental adiposity include radiofrequency-assisted contouring devices, deoxycholic acid, and cryolipolysis, which offer an alternative to more invasive procedures such as lipoplasty.
  • There are no comparative studies to date to suggest noninferiority of these noninvasive treatments compared to lipoplasty.


 

References

Submental fat (SMF) accumulation within the subcutaneous (preplatysmal) or subplatysmal fat compartment of the cervical anatomy results in an obtuse cervicomental angle and loss of mandibular and cervical contours. It is a common cosmetic concern due to its aesthetic association with weight gain and aging.1 Minimally invasive or noninvasive submental lipolytic agents and techniques are sought for patients who are not candidates for surgery or prefer more conservative cosmetic treatments. These methods typically are only effective in addressing preplatysmal SMF, as subplatysmal SMF requires more surgical methods due to its less-accessible location. The pathology of SMF should initially be assessed by clinical examination or ultrasonography. In this article, we review the most relevant clinical and safety data on minimally invasive and noninvasive treatments for SMF, including laser-assisted lipolysis (LAL), radiofrequency (RF)–assisted lipolysis, deoxycholic acid (DCA), and cryolipolysis.

MINIMALLY INVASIVE MODALITIES

Traditional, or tumescent, liposuction is still widely considered the most effective method for removal of large masses of adiposity. Laser- and RF-assisted adjuncts have been more recently developed to improve patient side effects and recovery time and reduce the manual effort of surgeons. Of note, these adjuncts, with some exceptions, still require the same invasiveness as traditional liposuction, involving submental stab incisions of up to 2.4 mm.

Laser-Assisted Lipolysis

Laser-assisted lipolysis produces a similar effect as suction-assisted lipoplasty by focusing pulses of laser energy through a 1-mm wide fiber optic cannula and inducing thermally mediated adipolysis. The directed laser results in adipocyte rupturing with added benefits of skin retraction and small vessel coagulation, thus lessening intraoperative blood loss.2 This technique typically requires smaller incisions than traditional liposuction. The most common laser lipolysis systems used in cosmetic dermatology are the 920- to 980-nm diode lasers and 1064- to 1440-nm Nd:YAG lasers. The 924-nm diode, 1064-nm Nd:YAG, and 1064/1320-nm Nd:YAG have been best characterized in clinical trials, as reviewed by Fakhouri et al,3 with demonstrated efficacy in reducing SMF density.

The first randomized prospective trial comparing LAL (using 1064-nm Nd:YAG) and traditional liposuction in various anatomical areas on 25 patients showed no difference in cosmetic results, ecchymoses, edema, or retraction, and significantly lower postoperative pain ratings (P<.0001) in LAL.4 A more recent prospective randomized comparison of LAL (980-nm diode laser; 6–8 W) and traditional liposuction of the submental area in 40 female patients showed greater reduction in SMF thickness in the LAL group compared to the liposuction group at 2-month follow-up (6.2 vs 8.22 unspecified units; P<.001) with significant improvement from baseline in both groups (P<.001).5 However, the cosmetic benefit of LAL over traditional liposuction remains controversial and has not been unequivocally established in the literature.

Common adverse events (AEs) are postoperative swelling, ecchymoses, and pain, and complications of interest are nodularity, skin infections, burns, and nerve damage.6 In one retrospective investigation (N=537), these complications occurred at a rate of less than 1% (4 burns and 1 skin infection).6 Patients treated with LAL may report fewer AEs, especially pain and bleeding, compared to liposuction-treated patients.3

RF-Assisted Lipolysis

Radiofrequency-assisted lipolysis is one of the newest technologies in lipocontouring. NeckTite (Invasix Aesthetic Solutions) is effective for treatment of preplatysmal adiposity and cervicomental lipocontouring; a 2.4-mm bipolar probe that is inserted into the subdermal space and connected with an external electrode emits RF energy and simultaneously coagulates and aspirates adipose tissue. NeckTite also may be used in conjunction with FaceTite (Invasix Aesthetic Solutions), which promotes fibroseptal network remodeling and dermal contraction.2

In the first published investigation of the efficacy and safety of NeckTite, 47 of 55 patients received treatment of slight to moderate SMF (average body mass index [BMI], 25 kg/m2) with NeckTite and FaceTite or NeckTite alone.7 At 6-month follow-up, 87% (48/55) of patients subjectively rated treatment efficacy as satisfactory, and 2 independent physicians rated the improvement between before-and-after frontal and lateral photographs of the submental area as moderate to excellent in 95% (52/55) of all cases. Reported complications in this study were full-thickness burns resulting in minor scarring (2/55 [4%]), neck tissue hardness that resolved with daily massage after 3 months (5/55 [9%]), and transient facial nerve paresis of the mandibular branch that resolved after 2 months (1/55 [2%]).7

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