Mesotherapy promises to melt away fat with a simple injection, but does it work? Equally as important, does it work? While your aesthetician or cosmetic surgeon may offer mesotherapy treatment, many doctors are shying away from this fat removal technique. Learn about this relatively new cosmetic procedure, including rulings by the FDA, before you consent to mesotherapy.
The theory behind mesotherapy
The theory behind mesotherapy treatment is rather straightforward. It involves the injection of certain substances into areas of fat with the goal of disrupting the fat cells. Without the thin cell membrane, the fat contained within the fat cell is dispersed into the surrounding area (called the extracellular matrix) and absorbed by the blood.
In other words, anywhere a mesotherapy cocktail is injected, the fat cells burst and release their contents to be carried away in the bloodstream. The liver and kidneys process that fat and eventually excrete it or use a small amount of it for energy. The result is that injected areas appear to shrink within days to weeks.
A cocktail of chemicals
Virtually all mesotherapy cocktails contain two principle ingredients: deoxycholate and phosphatidylcholine. Deoxycholate is a bile acid and one of the molecules that dissolves fat in our intestine. Deoxycholate acts like a detergent; just as a detergent makes grease more soluble in water, deoxycholate makes the fat that you eat more easily dissolved and absorbed in the digestive tract.
Phosphatidylcholine is actually a component of cell membranes and works to make the membrane more “fluid.” When a high concentration of phosphatidylcholine interacts with the cell membranes of fat cells it makes them so “fluid” that they tend to disintegrate.
Whether mesotherapy treatments actually melt away fat is up for debate. Part of the problem is that the actual chemicals contained within a mesotherapy injection can vary considerably. In addition to deoxycholate and phosphatidylcholine, any given mesotherapy injection may include a proprietary blend of hormones, steroids, vitamins, minerals, anesthetics, and antibiotics. Therefore it is quite difficult to compare various treatments since no one can agree on which chemical or chemicals are most effective.
FDA approval does not always mean that a treatment works
While each individual substance in a mesotherapy injection may be FDA-approved, most mesotherapy cocktails have not been evaluated by the FDA as a treatment for obesity. This means that although the components may be safe, the FDA does not imply or endorse the fact that mesotherapy is effective.
Therefore, mesotherapy injections are subject to vigorous debate between doctors, surgeons, alternative healthcare providers, and aesthetic practitioners. The debate is not only among health professionals, either; proposals to ban mesotherapy have been made by legislators in certain U.S. states.
Mesotherapy side effects
Unfortunately, while early reports of the effectiveness of mesotherapy have been slow in coming and not very convincing (proponents of mesotherapy admit that treatment is completely ineffective in 5% of patients) the reports on side effects have been disturbing.
Since the composition of chemicals in mesotherapy changes among practitioners, the side effects of mesotherapy are difficult to detect. In other words, if a patient has serious side effect from mesotherapy, which of the injected chemicals is the cause?
The most common side effects of mesotherapy are no noticeable effect, temporary bruising, dimpling (since the area of “melted” fat is restricted to the area that received a local bolus of mesotherapy), and skin infections.
The cost of a single mesotherapy treatment is approximately $400, which is obviously less expensive than a liposuction procedure. However, several mesoptherapy injections may be required to see significant results thus the cost difference may not be so great between the two procedures.
When you consider that the short and long term effectiveness of liposuction is well-documented and mesotherapy’s track record is less impressive, you should carefully consider a decision of mesotherapy over liposuction.