Sometimes, even with diet and exercise, losing an area of stubborn fat can feel impossible. For those not interested in going under the knife but searching for a solution, a new treatment has emerged in Iowa.
Dr. Linda Hodges, a physician board certified in internal, critical care and obesity medicine at Exceptional Health & Weight Loss Solutions in Hiawatha is the first in the state to offer SculpSure, an FDA approved, light-based body contouring system to zap stubborn fat cells with lasers.
It’s not the first non-invasive fat removal device to come out — think Coolsculpting, truSculpt, UltraShape and others — but SculpSure can treat up to four areas at one time in just 25 minutes using a diode laser beam to target and breakdown fat cells under the skin. It was approved by the FDA in May 2015.
During the first four minutes of treatment laser applicators warm up, then cycle through 25 second warming phases and 10 second cooling phases for 21 minutes. The hot phase, ranging from 107.6 to 116.6 degrees Fahrenheit, breaks down fat cells while the cooling phase keeps skin from overheating, Hodges said. Damaged fat cells are then permanently removed by the body’s lymphatic system — just like any other waste, she said. One treatment removes about 24 percent of fat cells in the treated area, Hodges said.
Right now SculpSure is only FDA approved for the abdomen and flanks and starts at $1,400 per session at Exceptional Health & Weight Loss Solutions. If additional treatments are required, a discount is applied, Hodges said.
SculpSure is not intended for significant weight loss, but for those within 10 to 20 pounds of their ideal weight, Hodges said. It should complement sustainable diet and exercise habits, not replace them, she explained.
“I’ve always been a healthy eater and I lift three days a week, but I still can’t get that spot,” said Patty Wright, a 48-year-old mother of three who underwent treatment on her stomach. “It’s frustrating when you put in so much time and energy. You want to see a return on your investment.”
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SculpSure is advertised as a painless treatment, but some patients say it isn’t exactly comfortable.
Hodges, 42, tried it herself before bringing it to her clinic, which opened last September. She likened the discomfort to menstrual cramps, with a cyclical pattern-like contractions. At the peak of the hot cycle, she said, “it heats up to where you think you can’t handle it. Then it cools down.”
“It’s not painful, but it definitely hurts,” Wright said, describing the discomfort as a “deep pinch.”
At the end, she said “it wasn’t unbearable, but it was hard to breathe through it.”
“It’s a very strange sensation,” Hodges added.
Although there is no recovery period following the treatment — Hodges said you can hop off the table and go for a run, if you’d like — it does take at least six weeks to notice results. Patients might not lose “any actual weight,” Hodges said, but they are likely to lose inches from the targeted area, perhaps fitting better in their jeans.
“The before and after is pretty impressive,” she said.