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Non-Surgical Fat Reduction - Zerona vs. Zeltiq


Two seemingly conflicting methods, one using laser energy and the other using cold, are both helping patients drop inches without surgery.

Liposuction has remained one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries for years as people turn to their doctors to remove the fat that diet and exercise can't seem to touch. Recently, there has been a trend towards less invasive aesthetic options as lasers and fillers replace facelifts and laser lipo takes center stage with traditional liposuction. There are two devices, both currently undergoing FDA testing, which could replace fat reduction surgery altogether. They are Zerona and Zeltiq, and they are pain free treatments to cut the fat.

Zerona before and after pictures
Zerona Results of Dr. Thomas Barnes

Made by Erchonia, the Zerona laser is not exactly a new concept. Newport Beach Zerona physician Dr. Thomas Barnes has been using this low level laser therapy device in his office for several years. Zerona was originally developed to assist in the performance of traditional lipo. "I was involved with the company that developed Zerona...," says Dr. Barnes. "I've been using this since 2001, thousands of cases. We know it causes fat to leak from the cells without injuring the cells. It makes the lipo easier. We knew that; then the company went to the next step and was able to take the same technology, and found that if you put it on the skin to affect the fat longer than 6 or 8 minutes - like we use with lipo when the fluid is in there - we can get the same result, but we need longer time on skin to affect the fat below it."

Dr. Barnes says, "The Zerona is a new technology available now for what I call body slimming.... Keep in mind, they're having fat leave fat cells through a transitory pore that develops under the influence of this particular non-invasive laser light that doesn't destroy tissue."

Though the laser may be aimed at one part of the body, patients and physicians are often seeing inch reduction in areas other than those treated. "We can lose 4 or 5 inches, an aggregate, off of hips, thighs and waist.... I shine the lights there, 20 minutes on the front, 20 minutes on the back, you feel nothing. So your clothes fit better, it's a motivator for a new weight loss program... You also slim off the upper arms, knees and neck, even though those are outside the area we shine the lights."
zerona before and after pictures
Zeltiq results of Dr. Lori Brightman

Zeltiq, on the other hand is not a laser at all. It uses cold therapy to provide spot fat reduction. Dr. Lori Brightman of the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York is working with this device that uses a technology known as cryolipolysis. Dr. Brightman informs us, "[Zeltiq is] actually extracting heat from the fat cells, and your body's natural reaction to the inflammation that's created is to slowly dissolve those fat cells over time." She advises, "This is a good treatment for love handles, back fat, little lower poochy belly."

The treatment is not painful. As Dr. Brightman describes, "It's not very uncomfortable. It just feels like a cold application on your skin's surface, and a suction." The treatment itself is pretty straight forward. "You take the applicator and you put it on the patient's area that they're targeting. It creates a suction which pulls the skin in to the suction applicator, and then they'll start to feel the cooling of their skin." She says the applicator stays on for one hour per applicator, but different areas may require different time commitments.

Dr. Brightman's patients are seeing about 20% reduction in the fat layer per treatment, but cautions it does take about 4 months to see results. "You're seeing this localized spot of fat reduced over time because it's your body's natural response to the inflammation that's created, so you'll see a slow resolution of that pocket of fat."