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The Skinny About Dissolving Fat

From time to time, patients ask me whether the unwanted fat on their hips, or abdomen, or knees can be dissolved without surgery.  Inevitably, they have read or heard about a procedure that accomplishes this in the popular press.  I have even seen, over the years, patients that have had this procedure, called mesotherapy, and are now unfortunately suffering from some of its undesirable side effects.


Mesotherapy involves a series of injections of various substances that will dissolve fat cells.  Over time, the body absorbs the by-products, and the fat in the area disappears.  This treatment has been available in various parts of the world, including Europe, and increasingly in the United States, and has always been a source of controversy and speculation.

I recently came upon an interesting and alarming article detailing a study recently published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.  This paper reported a series of difficult to treat infections after courses of mesotherapy in 16 patients.  The authors noted that surgical drainage was the most effective in treating these infections.

Other important risks to note about mesotherapy are that it can result in prolonged swelling and redness in the area of injection, and residual lumpiness and unevenness can occur.  The injection substances themselves are unregulated and vary from practitioner to practitioner.  The procedure is not FDA approved and not recommended by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

When it comes to mesotherapy – it is definitely an example of “if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.”  For dissolving fat, nothing works better than a healthy diet and regular exercise, and maybe a little bit of liposuction, if all else fails!

Read the full article from Reuters : Fat-dissolving Procedure Carries Risk

Dr. Carolyn Chang, San Francisco Plastic Surgeon