nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Non-invasive Body Contouring

It's been years since I looked at any studies on non-surgical body shaping.  I can't believe all the techniques and hardware out there now.

And, so far, I can't find any research on the benefits and risks.  Only liposuction has been around enough to know much about what can go right, or go wrong, in the long term.

For your interest, here's a brief compendium of some of the more popular non-surgical treatments designed to make you look better.

1.  Accent XL:  uses radiofrequency (RF) to target fat cells "Fat fluid is then absorbed by the body and removed in urine. The skin is tighter and the body is left looking slimmer."  For wrinkles, loose skin, jowls.  FDA approved.

2.  Liposonix:  Uses high-energy ultrasound (US) to liquify fat cells.  Fat is removed by the lymphatic system (and goes where? other fat cells?).  Not FDA approved.

3.  Thermage:  Uses RF to heat the under layer of the skin.  "This heat causes collagen creation, called neocollagenesis. This new collagen makes the skin look firmer & tighter and improves the overall texture of the skin."  This is for stretched skin, like chicken-neck.  Also alleged to work on cellulite.  FDA?

4.  UltraShape:  Another ultrasound approach that uses pulses to target fat cells, but spare other tissues.  Not FDA approved (but is approved in Europe).

5.  Zeltiq:  Cold has been a technique for anethestizing the skin for centuries.  This device claims to adapt the cooling process to apply enough cooling to damage fat cells, but not other skin cells.  The damaged fat cells are then policed up by the body. The manufacturers call this "cryolipolysis."  Gotta have a cool name.  FDA approved for anesthesia, not fat reduction. 
6.  Zerona:  Uses a laser, at frequencies that allegedly cause the fat to seep out of cells.  The manufacturer calls it "cool laser" technology.  For love handles and belly bulges.  FDA approved.

Once again, all of these claim:  no cutting involved, no general anesthesia, mild discomfort, and you can walk out of the office after treatment with only some temporary skin reddening.  The websites advertising these procedures show "before and after" pictures, and don't claim to do more than "improve" the situation.  If you were obese before, you will look obese after, just somewhat less so...for a while...maybe.
Even if this stuff works, and some of it sounds dubious, there's no data around on how long it lasts:  10 years? six months?  I noticed one disclaimer that  "Maintenance treatments may be needed to keep the results."  This may be like those treatments that grow hair:  yeah, they grow hair, as long you continue to use the product.  Stop, and your hair falls out.
The testimonials on the websites aren't evidence.  Clearly they aren't going to allow feedback that says, "My skin sloughed off, I got flesh-eating bacteria, and my life is ruined."  Complication and adverse reaction rates are not available.
Lastly....cost.  All of these things require one to several treatments at a total price that ranges from $2000 to $12000. 
Doc D

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