Fat-Melting Fad: Too Good to be True?

NEW YORK, NY (November 5, 2004) — The search for a nonsurgical method to get rid of unwanted fat is not new, and neither is "mesotherapy," a technique developed in 1952 by a French physician which is claimed to dissolve fat cells by injection of a potent cocktail of homeopathic class drugs combined with various conventional medications. Current media attention and a growing number of practitioners actively promoting mesotherapy has raised the hopes of many that maybe there really is an easy way to banish fat. Does mesotherapy work, and is it really ready to challenge lipoplasty (liposuction) -- the most popular cosmetic surgical procedure in the United States , according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) -- for the heavyweight crown of body sculpting?

“If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” says Peter B. Fodor, MD, ASAPS President, "and it may be dangerous as well. As board-certified plastic surgeons who are trained to take the scientific approach to medicine, ASAPS members are concerned when an unproven technique such as mesotherapy gains the public spotlight based largely on hype and hearsay."

Mesotherapy is touted as a cure for everything from overweight and cellulite to herpes and hair loss. Mesotherapy, in one form or another, has been used throughout Europe and South America for more than 50 years, yet still there are no scientifically documented benefits of the procedure.

Mesotherapy may involve the injection of small amounts of such medications as Phosphatidylcholine , Aminophyline, Isoproterenol, and various vitamins, minerals and herbs. However, there appears to be no universal formula and practitioners are encouraged to develop their own mixtures based on their clinical experience of what "works." The name "mesotherapy" is derived from the fact that the drug injections are absorbed by the mesodermal, or middle, layer of the skin.

"When you have practitioners with varying backgrounds and training who are experimenting with drug combinations in the hope that something may be effective, this certainly raises a red flag," says Dr. Fodor. "The potential for abuse of patient safety is enormous."

In addition to a lack of scientific evidence that mesotherapy is effective for any of the problems it has been claimed to treat, there also is a disturbing lack of safety data addressing the following questions:

  • How can it be assured that the appropriate amount of fat – neither too little nor too much -- is dissolved?
  • If fatty tissue is being dissolved, is other adjacent tissue also affected? How is delivery limited to only the target tissues?
  • What are the short-term and long-term side-effects? Is there the possibility of cell damage or cell death?

A great deal of the currently published research in aesthetic plastic surgery focuses on the development of minimally invasive procedures that can improve a patient's appearance with fewer risks and shorter recovery than traditional surgery. Plastic surgeons welcome the introduction of new procedures that are proven safe and effective. However, the established process by which the safety and effectiveness of new drugs and procedures are determined is through controlled scientific and clinical research.  Such research is additionally evaluated through publication of results in reputable, peer-reviewed medical journals and presentation of results at medical meetings such as those sponsored by ASAPS and other accredited sponsors of Continuing Medical Education.

As the leading educational and research organization in cosmetic plastic surgery, ASAPS encourages open-mindedness in regard to new treatment modalities, but also urges caution. " Patients who choose to undergo mesotherapy must first understand that they are assuming the unknown consequences and long-term effects of an unproven treatment that lacks adequate validation of safety and clinical effectiveness ," says Dr. Fodor. "Today, the only proven method for eliminating unwanted fat cells is lipoplasty, a procedure that has a long and successful track record for both safety and effectiveness."

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.


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