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Ultrasonic Body Contouring, initially available in the UK using the Ultrashape® device and more recently the LipoSonix® device, is the latest, minimally invasive way of contouring the body. The treatment is aimed as an alternative for women and men who want effective removal of excess fat cells without surgery, and focuses on the abdomen, inner and outer thighs (saddle bags) and flanks (love handles). The procedure uses focused ultrasound waves to selectively break down fat cells in a particular area, whilst protecting the outside layers of skin, nerves and blood vessels. Treatment is generally considered by most people to be painless. You are able to return to your normal activities straight afterwards. The results are seen gradually over a number of weeks as your body clears the fatty debris. Private costs for Ultrasonic Body Contouring can range from £300 – £800 per area treated in a session, with an average cost of approximately £500.
The 3D-lipo system combines hand pieces for cryolipolysis, radiofrequency, cavitation, dermology and shockwave therapy to achieve skin tightening, cellulite reduction and body contouring.
Exilis® Elite uses a combination of monopolar radio frequency (RF) energy, ultrasound to stimulate fat lipolysis (the breakdown of fat cells) and collagen remodelling (for skin tightening), alongside skin cooking, helping to contour the body and face.
LipoSonix® is designed to non-invasively deliver focused, high intensity ultrasound energy directly into targeted fat cells to treat small areas of stubborn fat in the thighs, back, buttocks & abdomen
The UltraShape device is marketed as “the first proven non-invasive ultrasound solution for body contouring” aimed at the removal of excess fat cells without surgery from the abdomen and thighs.
After puberty, fat cells (adipocytes) remain constant in number and change their size and volume according to the lipid (fat) content the body decides to store. Sometimes this fat assumes abnormal proportions in well-defined areas, such as thighs, hips and waist - even when your body weight is normal for your height. Attempts to reduce these localised fat deposits by diet or exercise alone are often unsuccessful.
Over the years, a variety of surgical interventions have been used to remove localised fat deposits including suction-assisted, ultrasound-assisted, and power-assisted liposuction. Although these procedures can be effective in reducing relatively large fat deposits, they do result in a lot of bruising and swelling in the treated area, requiring several days to recover; and they can cause some permanent numbness of the skin due to nerve damage.
Ultrasound-assisted liposuction became available in the early 1990s and uses ultrasound energy, emitted via the tip of the cannula (hollow tube) inserted in the body, to emulsify (liquefy) the fat first before it is extracted via the vacuum suction.
Ultrasonic Body Contouring however, uses focused, (at targeted areas only) ultrasound waves, delivered in pulses; some devices deliver short bursts of energy to avoid heat building up in the tissues, to disrupt fat cells, whilst others are targeted at creating heat to kill fat cells and effectivley contour certain body areas, whilst leaving surrounding tissue unaffected. Unlike the liposuction technique, the ultrasound energy is able to be delivered through the skin’s surface, without any incisions, and with all fat debris metabolised and naturally removed by the body itself.
If you are considering treatment with ultrasonic body contouring, the following information will give you a basic understanding of the procedure. It can't answer all your questions, since a lot depends on the individual patient. Please ask a practitioner about anything you don't understand.
How Does It Work?
The treatment is aimed as an alternative for women and men who want effective removal of excess fat cells without surgery, and focuses on the abdomen, inner and outer thighs (saddle bags) and flanks (love handles).
The procedure uses focused ultrasound waves to selectively break down fat cells in a particular area, whilst protecting the outside layers of skin, nerves and blood vessels.
Careful discussions regarding your reasons for wanting Ultrasonic Body Contouring are very important before you begin the treatment. You must also make sure that this treatment can deliver what you want and how you would like to look afterwards. Your practitioner should be able to answer all these questions.
A medical history should also be taken to make sure that there are no reasons why you shouldn’t undertake treatment. You may be asked to read detailed information and sign a consent form which means that you have understood the potential benefits and risks associated with the procedure.
Your doctor will give you specific instructions before coming in for the procedure. This may include avoiding the use of aspirin or any other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) drugs for a couple of weeks before treatment.
Photographs may also be taken by the practitioner for a "before and after" comparison at a later date.
Here we discuss the Ultrashape® treatment.
No anaesthesia is required.
Treatment begins with the practitioner marking the treatment area or target zone. The practitioner then glides the transducer (hand-held device that converts electrical energy into ultrasound energy) over the targeted zone, delivering short pulses of focused ultrasonic energy into the subcutaneous fat.
Each pulse breaks down the membranes of the fat cells, without impacting the blood vessels, nerves or other connective tissue, and the overlaying skin is also not damaged. By repeating the process, the device disrupts a layer of fatty tissue under the skin. .
When treated, the membranes of the fat cells are disrupted and fat cell content, known as triglycerides, is dispersed into the fluid between the cells and then transported through the vascular (veins) and lymphatic systems to the liver. Once in the liver, there is no distinction between fat coming from the treatment and fat originating from consumed food, and both are cleared from the liver via the body’s natural mechanisms.
The length of the treatment depends on how many areas you’re having treated, but can take between ¾ and 1½ hours.
The results are seen gradually over a number of weeks, up to one month, as your body clears the fatty debris.
The manufacturers of the Ultrashape® device claim an average circumference loss of 2cm in one area after a single treatment session.
Generally one treatment per area is considered to produce satisfactory results; however individuals may feel that they’d like repeat treatments.
Ultrasonic body contouring is not a treatment for obesity or a weight loss cure.
Although good results achieved with this procedure can be permanent, with a sensible diet and exercise, some people may require a repeat procedure in the future in order to achieve or maintain a desired result.
You are able to return to your normal activities straight afterwards. No rest or recuperation is required.
Side Effects and Risks
Treatment is generally considered by most people to be painless, with no pain or discomfort post-treatment being reported. A mild tingling and/or warm sensation have been reported during treatment.
There are very few documented side effects to date, although bruising is considered to be rare and if it occurs will be very mild, some redness and mild swelling may be noticed for a very short time post-treatment. Another rare possible side effect is a blister appearance in the treated area, which should heal in 1 – 2 days.
It is very important that you follow the advice of your practitioner carefully after any Ultrasonic body contouring treatment to help to ensure the success of the procedure and reduce the risk of complications.
Post-treatment recommendations may include:
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are not suitable candidates.
Body areas with tattoos or significant moles present on the skin will also not be able to undergo treatment.
The following conditions are also likely to mean that you are unsuitable for ultrasonic body contouring:
As the procedure is aimed at treating fatty areas, practitioners will aim to avoid bony regions during treatment.
Areas with very large fat deposits may not be suitable for ultrasonic body contouring treatment, in which case liposuction may be recommended by your practitioner instead.
Who Can Do It
Only suitably trained and qualified medical professionals and technicians should perform an Ultrasonic Body Contouring procedure.
For more information about practitioner training, qualifications and relevant medical organisations please view the information contained within the Legislation section of the Consulting Room.
You will not be able to access this treatment via the National Health Service (NHS).
Private costs for Ultrasonic Body Contouring treatment depends on the size of the area(s) being treated, and the number of areas that you have done in one treatment session, and can range from £300 – £800 per area, with an average cost of approximately £500.
Ultrasonic Body Contouring is not a treatment for obesity – it is designed for the safe and effective removal of unwanted fatty deposits which are resistant to exercise, in men and women, without the need for surgery.
Using focused ultrasound waves delivered in such as way as to not affect surrounding tissues, the fat cells are broken down by the pulses of energy, and then metabolised by the body, allowing contouring and reduction in the circumference of abdominal, thigh and flank (love handle) regions of the body.
Before and After Pictures
Abdomen before Ultrashape® treatment.
3 months after Ultrashape® treatment.
Photographs courtesy of Consultant Plastic Surgeon, Mr Christopher Inglefield,
BSc, MBBS, FRCS (Plast) at London Bridge Plastic Surgery.
All before and after photographs featured are real patients, your results may differ.