You may remember that just a few years ago, Lipodissolve or other products similar to it were the hottest thing is cosmetic medicine. Huge companies were rapidly built up with very slick marketing campaigns discussing the advantages and values of using these products to “melt” your fat away without diet, exercise, or surgery. A few injections and just sit back and watch all the fat disappear.
The trouble was no one had done the research to see first if it did work and two, if it was safe. Almost all of the information about using these types of injections came from small, un-controlled, antidotal reports without any real science and certainly very little long-term, real data. Most of these reports referred to using these compounds in small amounts to treat very small collections or pockets of fat such as under the eyes or under the chin. However, those that never let science get in the way of a dollar soon were treating massively heavy patients and injecting large amounts of these products into patients. Sometimes these treatments were being done in a doctor’s office, other times in some free-standing business set up just for such treatments, and other times, being done in the back room of the beauty salon. The marketing ads were aggressive and misleading filled with promises of a skinny you if you just kept getting the treatments. Some just plain lied and claimed FDA-approval of their products. Of course, problems soon arose and the media-particularly Joan Kron of Allure magazine-reported on the false and misleading promises of these companies. With time, most of these fat-dissolving centers went out of business but not before taking a lot of money from people and leaving behind a lot of problems for patients and plastic surgeons to deal with.
Recently, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons funded studies looking at these fat dissolving compounds to determine the safety and effectiveness of these treatments. At the Annual Meeting of the ASAPS in D.C., the first results were presented by Dr. Leroy Young and Spencer Brown, PhD. Ten patients were enrolled in the study and had injections into a small area on one side of their abdomen with the other side being used as a control. The patients had quite a bit of blood work done before, during, and after the treatments. They also had MRI studies performed before and after to document the fat reduction. There were also measurements obtained of the treated and untreated areas.
The findings are interesting but also puzzling. Some patients dropped out of the study stating the treatments hurt too much. One was lost to follow up. This left seven patients who followed the protocol to the end. At the end of the study, the findings did show a very small decrease in the fat content on the treated side but the reduction was very small. The blood work did not demonstrate any significant changes in key levels. While not wanting to say the treatments are safe, they did seem to indicate that in very small amounts, there were no clear lab abnormalities. There is a lot of work still to go with these studies and perhaps the best thought came from Dr. Brown who is a PhD., who stated it seemed like a lot to go through to get a small result.
I am sure we will be hearing more about this subject in the next months.
Herluf Lund MD