April 27, 2010 (Washington, D.C.) — Just a few weeks after the FDA chastised a handful of U.S. spas and one Brazilian company for makingmisleading claims about fat-melting injections known as lipodissolve, resultsof a small study suggest that it may play a role in treating small pockets offat. The new study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Societyfor Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Perhaps no one was more surprised by the results than study leader V. LeroyYoung, MD, a plastic surgeon in St. Louis. “When we started this there were anumber of companies that were treating large numbers of patients, and ourinitial goal was to make sure it was safe and worked. But before we couldfinish the study, one of the big companies doing it went bankrupt,” he says.“We figured if it worked, they would not have gone bankrupt, but felt we owedit to patients to see whether it was safe and worked. So although skeptical, wefinished the study.”
And lipodissolve — also known as lipotherapy or injection lipolysis — didmelt away fat.
The treatment involves a series of injections of medications that arepurported to melt localized fat deposits. The drugs most regularly used arephosphatidylcholine and deoxycholate (commonly called PC and DC, respectively).Lipodissolve is not approved by the FDA.
In the new study, seven participants were injected with a standardized PC/DCcocktail in one half of their abdomen during up to four sessions that wereeight weeks apart. As part of the study design, participants were allowed torequest treatment in the other side of their abdomen once the initialresults were tallied.
Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to objectively measure anychanges in fat thickness.
“We did obliterate about a centimeter of fat,” Young tells WebMD. “It tooktime though, and you could have done the same thing in one liposuctiontreatment and removed more fat,” he says.
Six of seven study participants saw a visible difference and opted toundergo lipodissolve on the untreated side of their abdomen.
Side effects included swelling, redness, bruising, and some pain, but therewere no serious side effects such as infection.
“It does reduce fat volume and thickness and side effects were predictable,”Young says. “Treatment of small areas of fat is a realistic expectation and a tool for peoplewho want less invasive procedures and fear anesthesia.”
But it’s important to know what you are being injected with, he says. “Youneed to know who produces the cocktail and what was done to it after it wasreceived,” he says.
As far as where the melted fat goes, it is not leaving the body, Young tellsWebMD. “It has truly the same fate as fat you would eat,” Young says. Itwill migrate to other areas of the body with fat cells, including thearteries.
“You are not going to have a heart attack from this though because theamounts of fat are so small,” he says.
Jeffrey M. Kenkel, MD, a professor and vice chairman of plasticsurgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas anddirector of the Clinical Center for Cosmetic Laser Treatment in Dallas, saysthat lipodissolve is “another option for treating small areas of fat such asunder the chin, and revisions of small lumps and bumps after liposuction.”
Renato Saltz, MD, the immediate past president of the American Society forAesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) and a plastic surgeon in Salt Lake City,was also surprised by the study results.
“The study results are positive, but it is still a very small sample, so wehave to be cautious regarding our final recommendation,” he tells WebMD. “Most of us felt that there was no application for mesotherapy (aprocedure similar to lipodissolve) and had seen or heard of disasters abroad,so when it started coming here, we were very concerned,” he says.
Questions do remain, he says. “The new study was on a small group of peopleby a ‘superb’ surgeon, but are the results reproducible?” he says. The nextstep is to expand the study.
The bottom line? “Stay tuned,” Saltz says.