Do Liposuction Alternatives Work?


Patient demand for less invasive procedures has prompted medical manufacturers to create non-surgical fat reduction devices. Do procedures like Zerona and Zeltiq provide the results patients want?

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Patients and physicians alike are in search of the elusive perfect procedure that combines great results with a low cost, fast recovery and no pain. Alas, the procedure that encompasses all of these benefits doesn't quite exist, but researchers and medical manufacturers are getting close. Several non-surgical liposuction alternatives are now available, but the real question is do they work?

A good example is Zerona the low level laser therapy (LLLT) device that was the first non-invasive aesthetic device to receive FDA market clearance in the U.S. for circumferential reduction of the waist, hips, and thighs. Clinical study showed that patients using the Zerona lost an average of 3.65 inches total across their waist, hips, and thighs in as little as two weeks, and the procedure is fast and totally pain free.

Zerona opens a pore in the fat cells so that they empty their contents, helping patients lose inches from all over the body. Also, patients can boost their results by following a new diet and exercise plan. Dr. Robert Burke, a cosmetic surgeon and provider of Zerona in Ann Arbor, MI says, "Zerona results are phenomenal if the patient is willing to drink 8 glasses of water a day, to watch their diet and get a modest amount of exercise each day." A course of treatment runs 40 minutes for each session at three times a week for two weeks. How much does Zerona cost? Expect to pay about $1800-$3000 per 2 week session.

Zerona prices
Actual results of Dr. Robert Burke

CoolSculpting by Zeltiq has also received FDA clearance for the non-invasive reduction of fat. Rather than using light as Zerona does, Zeltiq delivers targeted cold therapy to the treatment area. The fat cells then crystallize and die and are flushed out of the body by natural processes. There are no needles, pain, or downtime for the patient and each CoolSculpting procedure results in an average of 20% reduction of fat in the treated area. Dr. Richard Fitzpatrick, La Jolla dermatologist says of Zeltiq, "You lose that layer of fat cells that's right underneath the surface of the skin. It's a very predictable process, it's good for spot reduction."

Results are slow coming and are visible 2-4 months after treatment. How much does Zeltiq cost? Most doctors charge between $500 and $800 per treatment, but this will vary based on the size of the area treated and the patient's geographic location.
Zeltiq prices
Actual results of Dr. Richard Fitzpatrick and Dr. William Groff

With Zeltiq and Zerona, as well as all of the other non-surgical procedures currently available, patients are seeing results. The important thing to bear in mind is that you won't see the same kind of results as traditional liposuction. A common concept among cosmetic physicians is 'no pain, no gain.' Generally speaking, a procedure that's painless and has no downtime is not going to have as dramatic or as impressive an effect as a surgical one.

Some patients are willing to sacrifice results for an easier procedure though, which is why more of these devices are being developed. Appropriate expectations are critical to whether or not a patient considers their procedure a success, so it's important to discuss your desired results to ensure you're not disappointed.