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Noninvasive fat removal devices continue to gain popularity



– Noninvasive fat removal, such as laser treatment and cryolipolysis, is here to stay.

Dr. Mathew M. Avram

Dr. Mathew M. Avram

That’s what Mathew M. Avram, MD, JD, told attendees at the annual Masters of Aesthetics Symposium.

“It does not compare to liposuction, but many patients prefer these devices because there’s less downtime,” he said. “They don’t want pain. They don’t want time away from work.”

In the decade or so since the inception of the noninvasive body contouring field, noninvasive and minimally invasive devices have become far more popular than traditional liposuction, said Dr. Avram, director of laser, cosmetics, and dermatologic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “It’s not even close. Among American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [ASDS] members, for every 1 liposuction, there are over 10 noninvasive body sculpting treatments.”

There were 408,000 body-sculpting procedures performed in 2017. More than half of those (208,000) were cryolipolysis, followed by use of radiofrequency (89,000), deoxycholic acid (46,000), laser lipolysis (25,000), “other” procedures (25,000), and tumescent liposuction (15,000), according to data from the ASDS.

“Each treatment has improved in efficacy with time,” Dr. Avram said.

Devices currently cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for the noninvasive removal of fat include ultrasound, lasers, low-level laser therapy, cryolipolysis, and radiofrequency. One of the most common is low-level laser therapy.

“There are several different devices on the market, but there’s no good histology to confirm mechanism of action, so you question what the efficacy is,” said Dr. Avram, who is also the immediate past president of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.


In the traditional laser domain, the one most commonly used for fat removal is SculpSure, an FDA-cleared hyperthermic 1,060-nm diode laser. It features four flat, nonsuction applicators, a contact cooling system, and it enables the user to treat more than one area in a 25-minute session. There is minimal absorption by melanin.

“You shouldn’t treat over tattoos, however, because if there’s black ink, the tattoo will absorb the wavelength,” Dr. Avram said. “It’s safe in all skin types and there are a variety of different configurations you can use to treat the desired area.”

Initially there is a 4-minute warm-up cycle to achieve the target temperature. Over the next 21 minutes, 1,060-nm energy is delivered via proprietary modulation, alternating between heat and cooling.

“There is definitely some pain with this device,” he said. “Whether or not it’s a relevant endpoint is not known at this point. But typically, if you’re destroying fat with heat there should be some pain. It’s relieved by a period of cooling. A submental fat treatment is now available. I have not personally used it, but it’s the same technology.”


Another popular technology is cryolipolysis (CoolSculpting), which was developed at Massachusetts General Hospital by R. Rox Anderson, MD, and Dieter Manstein, MD, PhD.

It’s FDA cleared for noninvasive fat removal and there have been more than 6 million cryolipolysis treatments performed around the world. The purported mechanism of action is selective crystallization of lipids and fat cells at temperatures below freezing. An inflammatory process results in fat reduction over 2-4 months.

“When it first started, cryolipolysis was designed to treat local areas like love handles in males,” Dr. Avram said. “Over time, applicators have been designed to treat different areas, most recently, one for the posterior upper arms and above the knees. There is now a larger, faster CoolSculpting applicator which results in a 35-minute treatment. It’s a little larger, there’s a little less pain, a lower temperature, and it’s a little bit more effective. This has been helpful in our practice in terms of getting more treatment cycles in a visit.”

Postprocedurally, massage may improve clinical results by mobilizing lipid crystals created from treatment.


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