Noninvasive Technique Reduces Waist Size in Nonobese Patients, Study Finds

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - A "body sculpting" technique using high-intensity focused ultrasound to eliminate unwanted abdominal fat effectively reduces waist circumference, with only minor pain and side effects, reports a study in the July issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).


Body sculpting is defined as "the optimization of the smoothness, definition, or silhouette of the human physique, particularly the torso." The most common medical procedure for body sculpting is liposuction, which can remove relatively large volumes of fat. High-intensity ultrasound provides a nonsurgical alternative to liposuction for removing unwanted fat in nonobese patients, according to the study led by ASPS Member Mark L. Jewell, MD of Oregon Health Science University, Eugene.

Body Sculpting Technique Eliminates Fat with Few Side Effects

The researchers evaluated the outcomes of high-intensity focused ultrasound for body sculpting of the abdomen and flanks in 180 patients. All patients sought treatment to eliminate excess abdominal fat; only patients who were not obese (body mass index less than 30) were eligible for the study. The average age was 42 years, and 85 percent of the patients were women.

Patients were randomly assigned to undergo high-intensity ultrasound treatment at a higher or lower energy level, or inactive "treatment" with no ultrasound energy. Twelve weeks after treatment, waist circumference and patient-rated results were compared among the three groups.

The results supported the effectiveness of high-intensity ultrasound in reducing abdominal fat - especially at the higher energy level. Among patients who actually underwent their assigned treatment, waist size decreased by an average of 2.5 centimeters (one inch) in the high-energy ultrasound group, compared to the control group.

The reduction was slightly less in the low-energy ultrasound group: 2.1 centimeters. Waist size decreased by at least three centimeters in about one-third of patients in the high-energy ultrasound group and one-fourth in the low-energy group. These objective measurements supported the patients' perceptions of a flatter stomach after high-intensity ultrasound treatment.

The body sculpting procedure took less than 50 minutes to perform and generally caused minor pain, swelling and bruising. Only 22 percent of patients needed pain medications; side effects tended to be greater in the high-energy group. There were no unexpected complications or abnormal laboratory test results.

The high-energy ultrasound technique evaluated in this study provides an alternative to liposuction for patients seeking treatment for small, localized fat deposits. The high-intensity ultrasound waves achieve localized destruction of fat at precise tissue depths, without damaging the skin or surrounding tissues. The new study is the first randomized controlled trial of the new body sculpting technique.

The results document the effectiveness of high-intensity focused ultrasound for achieving "modest" reductions in waist circumference in nonobese patients. Objective data showing a reduction in waist size support the finding of good subjective ratings and high patient satisfaction rates. The new body sculpting technique is safe, causing minimal pain or side effects.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

About ASPS

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the world's largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons. Representing more than 7,000 Member Surgeons, the Society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 94 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. ASPS advances quality care to plastic surgery patients by encouraging high standards of training, ethics, physician practice and research in plastic surgery. 

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