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What Is Injection Lipolysis?

By Kathleen Howard
Updated May 21, 2024
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Injection lipolysis, often called lipodissolve, is a cosmetic procedure that involves the injection of drugs into the body with the intention of destroying fat cells. These treatments are often used on areas like the face and lower stomach that are hard to reduce with exercise alone. Most lipolysis mixtures contain a combination of phosphatidylcholine and sodium deoxycholate, but some also contain vitamins and other substances. After treatment, patients will notice the treated areas gradually diminishing over a period of two to eight weeks. Due to certain side effects of injection lipolysis, these treatments are highly controversial and even banned in some countries.

Unlike liposuction, injection lipolysis treatments are not intended to reduce large fat deposits. The purpose of injection lipolysis is to reduce small areas of fat that are difficult to eliminate through diet and exercise. During treatment, a surgeon will inject a mixture of drugs directly into the patient’s subcutaneous fatty tissue. Since these treatments are administered in small injections, some surgeons believe they are more able to contour the body with injection lipolysis than with other methods of fat removal.

Another unique aspect of this treatment is that the effects of injection lipolysis are not immediate. In most cases, it takes several weeks for fat cells to be broken down, processed and transported from the body. It can take anywhere from two to eight weeks for a patient to see the final results of his or her treatment. At this time, patients can decide whether additional injections are necessary to achieve the desired appearance. For dramatic results, several treatment sessions will usually be required.

After treatment, patients will typically experience some bruising, swelling, itching and soreness. Some people also experience lightheadedness or minor allergic reactions. These side effects are usually mild and should improve within five to seven days.

In rare cases, patients have suffered serious side effects after undergoing injection lipolysis. These treatments may cause hardening of the tissue, disfigurement, infection, scarring, skin ulceration and nerve damage. These side effects are sometimes the fault of an inexperienced surgeon, poor application or a negative reaction to the drugs.

Before choosing to remove fat with injection lipolysis, patients should know that as of 2011 these treatments are not approved by the United States Federal Drug Administration (FDA) or any international regulatory agency. In fact, this treatment has been banned in several countries, including France, Brazil and Canada. Other countries are still researching the safety and effectiveness of this procedure.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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