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HealthWatch: Ultrasound Technology Offers Alternative To Liposuction

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) - A new piece of technology promises to help get rid of that stubborn fat - it's the latest in the Battle of the Bulge.

The LipoSonix System is a method of non-invasive waist circumference reduction. It uses special technology called HIFU (High Intensity Focused Ultrasound) to kill fat cells that lie one to two centimeters below the skin's surface.

Dr. Vic Narrokar, a dermatologist at California Pacific Medical Center, said LipoSonix is a less-risky alternative to liposuction and is especially effective with small areas of fat where diet and exercise won't do the trick. It's not a replacement for liposuction, or a healthy lifestyle, as a way to lose weight. LipoSonix is designed to trim love handles.

"If you can pinch an inch, you're a good candidate," said Narrokar, who noted it has been used in Europe for years and is now FDA approved for use in the United States. Studies have shown it works, taking one inch off the waistline on average.

"There are no incisions, there really isn't much recovery except for some (temporary) bruising. There is absolutely no limitation in your activity, and there are no risks of anesthesia associated with more invasive procedures," said Narrokar.

Selyca Medford tried the procedure for her stubborn belly fat, and she likes the results.

"I like to be active with friends, as well as going to the gym. I eat really well, but that doesn't seem to be enough to shed all that I'd like," she said.

Medford considered liposuction, but decided it wasn't right for her. When she heard about LipoSonix, she signed up.

"One hour in a day, and I can go back to work and not have to wear any special garments" Medord said. "(The fat) just slowly sheds away."

Although there is no cutting, LipoSonix can produce bruising, swellling and pain.

"There may be what we call hotspots or zingers," said Narrokar. "Right now, we've been giving patients a medication such as valium to reduce the anxiety." He said most people tolerate the procedure well, but may feel more pain where the skin is thinner or boney.

Narrokar also noted the procedure takes time, typically six to eight weeks after a single treatment to see results, two to three months to see the full results.

And while it is a lot less expensive than liposuction, it is still not cheap. A single, 60-90 minute procedure costs $3,000-$4,000. Since LipoSonix is considered cosmetic, insurance doesn't cover it.

For Medford, that is money well spent.

"I am going on a number or vacations this year, to Hawaii and to Mexico," she said. "I will be spending a lot of time in bathing suits."

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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