Ten years ago, if I was sitting around with a group of friends discussing how in the palm of my hand I have a fully functioning computer that seamlessly coordinates nearly every facet of my life and even connects to Wi-Fi while I am flying miles above the earth’s surface, I would have been told I was crazy. That is precisely what we have in the iPhone, which celebrated its tenth birthday this year. The future of the phone transformed every facet of our lives.
We have come a long way from the first reported cases of liposuction (suction lipectomy). The first known attempt at removal of subcutaneous fat (fat just deep to our skin) through a small incision was performed by French surgeon, Charles Dujarrier in 1921. He employed a sharp uterine curette and operated on the calves of a Folies Bèrgere dancer. The procedure was successful in fat removal; however, it eventually resulted in the amputation of a leg due to injury to the femoral artery. Decades passed before new reports on contouring fat were published. In the past 15 years, liposuction has seen a 77% increase in its number of surgeries performed. Furthermore, “lipo” is the most common aesthetic surgical procedure performed in men. Indeed, liposuction consistently ranks among the most common plastic surgery procedures performed worldwide on women and men, alike. So, one may ask where the future of getting rid of fat lies?
As a board-certified plastic surgeon on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, I am accustomed to patients requesting the newest treatments and techniques, but also expecting them to be safe, have minimal downtime, and be exceedingly effective – the cosmetic procedure holy grail. With the introduction of Botox Cosmetic to the world in 2002, there has been an explosion of a myriad of cosmetic procedures performed non-surgically. There is continued growth in the aesthetic surgical sector, as well; however, the growth rate of non-surgical treatments is around 2.5 times faster per year. It should come as no surprise that the future of getting rid of unsightly fat and creating desired contour continues to shift towards not “going under the knife.” In recent years, novel technology exploiting the fragile nature of adipocytes (fat cells) have employed cooling fat or heating fat to specific temperatures to destroy the cells, while minimizing trauma to the surrounding skin. The depth of penetration into the fat is limited in these technologies yielding results… but not surgical type results.
Kybella has become a household name in the cosmetic world. Putting aside the fact it is the first FDA-approved drug of its kind to permanently destroy fat cells with an injection, it is also everywhere: television, print, and online. Also, the product is found native in our gastrointestinal tract and is released in the blood stream when we indulge on New York’s finest slice of cheese pizza or cheesecake…basically anything fatty. Kybella was FDA-approved to eliminate the “double chin.” This quickly has evolved into using the medication to treat some small isolated pockets of fat, and some not so small areas. Women, have you ever been bothered by that bulge in front of your underarm when you have your favorite tank top on? Surgery in a Syringe℠ bra fat contouring performed by me may very well be for you. What historically required a trip to the operating room can now be performed in the same chair you relax in while getting your lips plumped. Men, are you bothered by the stubborn love handle fat and not interested in liposuction? Surgery in a Syringe℠ love handle contouring with Kybella at my practice may very well be the solution. The ability to target specific areas of fat within 1 centimeter gives incredible control to contour the body. The gradual improvement over weeks also allows one to treat to satisfaction based on the progress.
Injecting medications to destroy fat is not a new concept, but we’ve never had the FDA’s blessing or a pure, synthetic studied version until now. There’s much work to be done, just like on the iPhone, to perfect Surgery in a Syringe℠ facial and body contouring. However, the future of getting rid of fat is here and it’s an office visit away.
Dr. Sachin Shridharani is a Johns Hopkins trained Plastic Surgeon based in New York City focusing on aesthetic/cosmetic surgery and complex reconstruction.