Newly-approved device melts away fat

February 26, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
For many couples, ultrasound provides the first look at their unborn child, but now a Bay Area company is using the technology for another purpose -- to melt fat.

This is a specific type of high-intensity focused ultrasound, developed by a company in Hayward, that generates heat as it enters the body and doctors say that heat effectively kills fat cells.

Watching her walk down the street, few people would describe Britany as being heavy, but this sales professional, who asked us not to use her last name, says she has a problem area.

"I feel as if I'm wearing a spare tire around my body," said Britany.

Today she's hoping to lose up to an inch off her waistline without surgery. Instead, she's being treated with a newly-approved device called Liposonix. Walnut Creek dermatologist Christine Lee, MD, says the system uses high-intensity focused ultrasound to melt fat cells.

"What's really amazing when you're treating it, sometimes you'll hear this snap, crackle, pop. It literally sounds like fat sizzling," said Lee.

Lee begins by marking numbered target points on Britany's stomach. Since the ultrasound delivers heat, she needs to carefully track which sections have been treated and for how long.

"The only requirement is that you have to have one inch of fat," said Lee.

Once the procedure is mapped out, Lee delivers pre-set pulses of ultrasound to each target in the order they're marked. She says some patients will feel a light stinging sensation.

"Some parts of the body you feel a little bit more than others," said Lee.

The system won't produce the same results as techniques like liposuction, which requires surgery to remove the fat. Lee says Liposonix can be used to treat wide areas of the body and the overall results are more noticeable than some other non-evasive options.

"Patients have been getting one inch on average of fat loss," said Lee.

Brittany's results have been slightly better. A few weeks after we taped her procedure, her measurements showed a loss of nearly two inches around her waist -- a reduction most visible in the area commonly referred to as the love handles. Lee says the full benefits take about eight to 12 weeks, as the body flushes out the dead fat cells.

"And as long as you have an inch there, we can treat it and the treatment results have been astounding," said Lee.

Session typically cost between $1,500-$3,000. The main side effect is light bruising which can last for about two weeks.

Written and produced by Tim Didion


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