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A glimpse at devices designed to tackle cellulite


AT MOAS 2023

While mechanical subcision of fat septa with a scalpel or a large bore needle is a tried-and-true treatment for cellulite, other technologies have emerged as alternatives.

A noninvasive treatment, rapid acoustic pulse (RAP) technology (RESONIC), was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in 2021 for short-term improvement in the appearance of cellulite. The device emits rapid acoustic pulses (shock waves) that are transmitted through the skin to rupture or shear the fibrotic septa; release of the septa results in the smoothing of skin dimples, Arisa E. Ortiz, MD, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at the University of California, San Diego, said at the annual Masters of Aesthetics Symposium. RAP, however, was “taken off the market temporarily to refine the design.”

Arisa E. Ortiz, MD, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at the University of California, San Diego Dr. Arisa E. Ortiz

Dr. Arisa E. Ortiz

According to Dr. Ortiz, RAP’s repetition rate and short rise time provides microscopic mechanical disruption to the targeted cellular level structures and vacuoles, while high peak pressure and the fast repetition rate exploit the viscoelastic nature of tissue. Compressed pulses from electronic filtering and the reflector shape eliminate cavitation, heat, and pain. Researchers have postulated that the procedure stimulates collagenesis and angiogenesis.

“There’s no heat to this; it just uses sound,” Dr. Ortiz explained. “It’s also time dependent. The longer you do the treatment, the more disruption of the septa you see. The procedure takes 20-30 minutes. Unlike other treatments, it’s not just for discreet dimples. You can treat entire areas like the buttock or posterior leg,” said Dr. Ortiz, who did not use the RAP device in her practice.

Another device, targeted verifiable subcision (TVS, marketed as Avéli), is FDA cleared for temporary reduction in the appearance of cellulite in the buttock and thigh areas of adult women. “But studies show lasting results, at least through a year,” Dr. Ortiz said. The device features a light-guided probe and a hook. The light enables clinicians to navigate under the skin, while the hook releases a tiny blade that severs the septa. “Once you find the septa, then you activate the blade and release the septa. You go right to left because the direction of the blade is on the left of the probe. Then you go back to verify that you got everything that was creating that dimple.”

Previous devices, she said, would “blindly shear the area, so you would find the dimple and blindly cut, so there was no way to verify that you got the target dimple. The results were sometimes mediocre because you didn’t really know if you effectively treated the area.”

A woman holding and pinching cellulite on her leg Iuliia Mikhalitskaia/Getty Images

She emphasized that TVS is only useful for discreet dimples. “Many patients who come in asking for cellulite treatment have a lot of laxity and rippled texture,” said Dr. Ortiz, who is also president-elect of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery. “This is not going to be appropriate for those cases. Setting expectations is important. If patients have laxity and discreet dimples and it’s just the dimples that bother them, that’s fine. They just need to understand the difference,” she said, noting that this is “safe for all skin types.”

Tumescent anesthesia is used to control pain during the procedure. The most common adverse events are bruising and soreness. Results from a pivotal trial showed that clinically significant improvements in the primary endpoint, Cellulite Severity Scale scores, were sustained 1 year after treatment. “Hemosiderin staining can occur, but it eventually dissipates on its own,” Dr. Ortiz added. “You can use laser to speed up healing but sometimes that can make it worse, so you want to be careful with that. Most of the time I have patients wait it out; it does go away on its own.”

She noted that the development of RAP and TVS have helped clinicians better understand the makeup of septa. “We used to think of septa as singular bands that are vertically oriented in cellulite, but what we’ve realized is that it’s more like a network of septa,” she said.

Another noninvasive technology, synchronous parallel ultrasound beam technology from Sofwave (marketed as SUPERB), was FDA cleared in December 2022 for the short-term improvement in the appearance of cellulite. The device has seven parallel beam transducers that increase tissue temperatures of the treatment area to 60-70° C, inducing collagen remodeling and collagen denaturation, she said.

In the pivotal study of 68 women, two blinded reviewers reported an 89% improvement rate for both cellulite and skin laxity, after two treatments 2-4 weeks apart, according to data she presented at the meeting. The mean pain score during treatment was 4.55 on a scale of 1-10. No safety issues were observed and immediate responses were limited to erythema and edema.

Dr. Ortiz disclosed having financial relationships with several pharmaceutical and device companies, including receipt of speaker fees and honoraria from Sofwave. She is also cochair of MOAS.

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