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We all want to lose fat. But not all of us want to go under the knife to do it.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, last year 204,702 Americans underwent liposuction, making it the third most common cosmetic surgery performed. This is in stark contrast to 2000, when 354,015 Americans had liposuction, making it the most popular cosmetic surgery of that year.
Our population appears to be getting heavier and heavier. So why is there such a decline in people undergoing liposuction?
One possible factor is the emergence of FDA-approved, nonsurgical fat reducing devices. More and more people are having their fat removed without going under the knife. In 2010, the FDA approved Zerona, the first device cleared in the U.S. for circumferential reduction. While multiple studies show this treatment to be effective-when combined with dietary changes, exercise and supplements-the ability to control where the fat is reduced is minimal.
The next nonsurgical liposuction device to receive FDA clearance, Zeltiq, was cleared by the FDA approximately a month later. This novel device reduces the thickness of fat by aggressively cooling it. Although Zeltiq undoubtedly works, the large treatment head allows fat to be removed from only a few locations, such as the hips and abdomen.
This brings us to Liposonix. In September 2011, the FDA approved this device, which reduces fat by blasting it with ultrasound waves. These are the same ultrasound waves that can allow us to see into a pregnant woman's tummy. Studies found that after one treatment, patients lost an average of an inch from the circumference of their waist. This is equivalent to one pant or dress size. Best of all, unlike Zerona and Zeltiq, Liposonix can reduce fat in just about any part of the body the patient chooses, including the arms and outer thighs.
While these treatments are no doubt popular and effective, patient expectations are key. None of them will give results comparable to liposuction. In fact, the variability of changes in the before-and-after photos is huge. Some patients appear to have dramatic results, whereas others have changes that can barely be seen.
In the end, if you want to get rid of fat, then diet and exercise is the best way to go. If you're unwilling or unable to lose those problem areas the old-fashioned way, then liposuction is still the gold standard. It's safe, effective and can achieve dramatic results. However, if you don't want surgery, have modest expectations, and have $1,000-2,000 burning a hole in your wallet, then one of these nonsurgical liposuction devices may be right for you.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.