Definition & Overview

Lipolysis is an aesthetic procedure that breaks down fats or lipids in the body to remove unwanted fat tissue deposits. It can be performed using very cold temperature, laser, radio frequency, microinjections, and ultrasound. It helps in achieving patients' desired body contour as it is effective in removing stubborn fat deposits in thighs, stomach, hips, and buttocks, among others.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Though lipolysis helps remove unwanted fat deposits in the body, it is not offered as an alternative to liposuction especially as an obesity treatment. It is ideal for patients who want to remove a small amount of stubborn fat deposits in some areas of their bodies. To qualify for the procedure, one needs to be relatively fit and healthy and has unwanted bulges in isolated parts of the body such as the waist, hips, or the back. Typically, these bulges are commonly referred to as love handles, muffin tops, or bra bulges.

It is good to note that there are several factors that are contraindications for lipolysis. These include pregnancy, the presence of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, allergies, and the presence of malignant cells and other disorders.

Since lipolysis is considered a non-invasive procedure, it is safe and simple but requires several sessions to achieve the desired results. Patients report a high level of satisfaction with the end results, which typically become apparent after several weeks or months. Most patients also observe improved skin tone and tightening in areas where lipolysis was done, which contributes to the overall satisfaction of the procedure. With the help of proper diet and exercise, the reduction of fat tissue in the body could be permanent. Patients can resume their normal, daily activities almost immediately after the procedure.

How is the Procedure Performed?

There are several techniques that can be used to perform lipolysis. These involve the use of:

  • Cold temperature - A number of patented machines have been developed to apply extremely cold temperature to identified parts of the body and induce fat cells death. The procedure uses a specialised cup to draw the tissue to the surface using moderate vacuum. The specific body area is then subjected to cold temperature, with sensors monitoring the heat being drawn out from the tissue. This procedure takes several weeks to take effect, as the treated part undergoes an inflammatory reaction caused by its exposure to cold. This reaction involves the destruction of lipid or fat cells as part of the body’s normal reaction to injury.

  • Laser - This involves the use of low-level laser radiation that melts the fat tissue. For the procedure, a very small cannula, which contains the laser, is inserted into the skin of the targeted body part. As laser is applied, the cannula is moved back and forth under the skin to dissolve the fat cells. The laser also causes the collagen in the skin to shrink, tightening the surface in the process.

  • High-intensity focus ultrasound - This involves the application of focused acoustic energy to subcutaneous tissue to destroy cell membranes. The heat causes the necrosis of targeted fat cells without injuring the surrounding tissues.

  • Radiofrequency waves - Radiofrequency waves can also be used to destroy fat tissues using electrical energy. This also causes targeted cell death without injuring the underlying tissues.

  • Fat-dissolving solutions - These can also be injected directly into the subcutaneous layer to remove fat deposits. This is done in several sessions to induce the disruption of fat cell membranes and dissolving its contents.

Possible Risks and Complications

Most patients report the following after lipolysis:

  • Stinging sensation and bruising of skin
  • Skin is sensitive to touch
  • Erythema or superficial reddening
  • Hematoma
  • Hives
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Meanwhile, complications following this procedure are considered rare, though there are still some isolated cases worth taking note of. These include persistent pain, hyperpigmentation of the skin, and infection of the injection site. For those undergoing laser lipolysis, there is the possibility of scarring, burning of skin, and numbing.


  • Baldwin, Kenneth David Sutherland; Brooks, George H.; Fahey, Thomas D. (2005). Exercise physiology: human bioenergetics and its applications. New York: McGraw-Hill.

  • Kennedy, J.; Verne, S.; Griffith, R.; Falto-Aizpurua, L.; Nouri, K. (2015). "Non-invasive subcutaneous fat reduction: A review". Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 29: n/a

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