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Ultrasonic Cavitation
  • Ultrasonic cavitation, otherwise known as cavi-lipo, is a non-invasive, non-surgical fat removal technique that’s gaining big popularity in the U.S.
  • The procedure requires about a dozen half-hour long treatments, wherein a specialist bursts fat using low-frequency ultrasound waves.
  • Patients report virtually no side effects, no pain and good results (so far) when using ultrasonic cavitation to slim down.
  • As far as body contouring procedures go, ultrasonic cavitation holds up well, although there are some downsides to the treatment.

We could all use a minimally invasive, low-cost way to get rid of stubborn fat and cellulite, but every time a new miracle treatment pops up on the market, it seems that it’s quickly filed in the “too good to be true” category. A relatively new body contouring treatment claiming to zap away fat cells via sound waves is here, and we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty to see whether it’s worth putting in the “legit” pile or if it’s just another disappointment.

As you know, there are hundreds of different fat-busting body sculpting options on the scene. These treatments require the use of machines that deliver bursts of cold air, radiofrequency energy and lasers to zap away fat cells, cellulite and stretch marks. So which one is best for you? It all comes down to your desired results, budget and targeted area. In this article, we’ll discuss how ultrasonic cavitation stacks up to the other body sculpting treatments out there.

Body contouring

RELATED: Body Contouring Examined: Liposuction vs. Coolsculpting

What is Ultrasonic Cavitation?

Ultrasonic cavitation, also known as ultrasound cavitation, cavi-lipo or simply ultra cavitation, is a less invasive liposuction alternative that uses ultrasonic waves that separate fat cells for removal from the body. The treatment was first introduced in Milan, Italy in 2005, and gained much popularity in Europe. Today, it’s gaining steam in the U.S. for reducing circumference in the waist, upper arm, thighs, hips, chin, back or belly.

During treatment, a specialist or doctor will use non-invasive machines to target areas of the body with low-frequency ultrasound waves. The waves penetrate the skin and create bubbles around the fat deposit, which then burst, causing the body to get rid of them naturally through urine and the lymphatic system. During a series of ultrasound cavitation treatments, fat is turned into free fatty acids, which are easier for the body to get rid of.

Proponents of ultrasonic cavitation say that the technology leaves behind toned, tightened skin. Like most forms of body contouring, ultrasonic cavitation treatment is not for extreme weight loss. Instead, it provides body shaping and skin tightening in certain problem areas. In other words, it won’t provide the same fat removal power as liposuction, but it might help you slim down those love handles or upper arms.

It’s classified as a circumferential reduction treatment, and not a fat reduction treatment. What does that mean? Essentially, it just means that you won’t be able to measure your success in how much fatty tissue you’ve lost, but instead by how many inches you’ve shrunk in your treatment area. Generally speaking, circumferential reduction is enough for people who just want to smooth, tighten and tone a specific body area.

What’s interesting about this treatment compared with others is that it uses a special device that has many medical benefits. The ultrasonic cavitation machine essentially fragments body tissue with low fiber content, without compromising the tissue structure surrounding it. Therefore, it’s sometimes used during cancer treatment and surgeries, especially those involving the pancreas or liver.

While ultrasonic cavitation is often compared to VASER liposuction — they both use ultrasound technology to encourage fat loss — VASER lipo typically requires the use of a traditional cannula to physically remove fat cells. On the other hand, the ultrasonic cavitation technology “bursts” fat bubbles so that the body can then process and remove them itself.

What To Expect From Your Ultrasonic Cavitation Treatment

Interestingly, it is possible to perform the treatment at home using devices by Gizmo, Beauty Star and Segbeauty for instance. These machines range significantly in price, with some costing as little as $125 and as much as $700.

Doctors and aestheticians may also perform the procedure in-office, with treatments such as UltraShape, but they typically report that results are less satisfactory by comparison to more proven fat removal techniques.

Whether performed at home or in a clinic, patients generally report feeling no pain and no heat during their treatment session. They will occasionally report a slight humming. Because of this, there’s virtually no downtime and very few side effects associated with the treatment. Some patients even report that the treatment is relatively relaxing, and that they felt like they could read a book or nap during treatment!

For the best results, most patients require between 10 and 12 treatments, but you’ll see up to one to five centimeters of circumference reduction within five treatments. Each treatment session lasts for around 30 to 50 minutes. To get the most out of your treatments, doctors recommend drinking water, maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly in-between sessions.

In fact, it’s important that patients drink at least 1.5 liters of water before and after ultrasonic cavitation treatments in order to help the body expel the fatty acids. If performed in-office, your doctor or technician will probably tell you to follow a low-calorie, low-carb diet for at least a day before the procedure, which will help you better burn fatty acid during the treatment and just after.

So, how long does it last? For many patients, a solution that offers long-term results is worth the extra money and time. Doctors who perform ultrasound liposuction say that the fat cells treated with low-frequency sound waves won’t return, so they do provide a permanent effect. Still, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet and exercise to keep the fat off.

Are you a good candidate? For the most part, people who are looking for a way to tighten and tone are eligible for ultrasound cavitation. Anyone with a pacemaker, a cardiac or vascular disease or another serious condition may be restricted from this treatment. Because of the potential for metabolic harm in the cavitation process, people with diabetes should avoid this treatment.

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Ultrasonic Cavitation Vs. Other Body Contouring Options

The primary difference between ultrasonic cavitation and other body contouring options is that its fat-busting mechanism is ultrasound waves. There are a few other things that make it stand out from the rest, though. Understanding how it stacks up to other treatments will help ensure that you get the right results for your body type, timeframe and budget.

Laser Liposuction

With laser liposuction, fat cells are targeted using minimally invasive laser technologies instead of the ultrasonic waves implemented through cavi-lipo. The primary difference between the two treatments is that, with laser lipo — which usually lasts several hours per treatment — fat is extracted through a cannula, much like with traditional liposuction. This factor means anesthesia and more downtime. What’s more, ultrasonic cavitation tends to cost less than laser lipo.

Cryolipolysis (CoolSculpting)

When you think of CoolSculpting, you probably picture a technician blasting fat with ice-cold air. Using cryolipolysis technology, CoolSculpting lowers fat cells to 4 degrees Celsius, which crystallizes them and allows the body to get rid of them naturally. CoolSculpting is one of the oldest and most well-researched body contouring options out there, so it’s efficacy is proven to a higher degree than ultrasonic cavitation. Both are comfortable, non-invasive and pain-free.

» Is Coolsculpting better than an ultrasonic cavitation treatments in your case? Use our virtual consultation tool to discuss this with a cosmetic doctor near you from the comfort of your own home.

Laser Body Contouring (SculpSure)

Another form of body contouring, SculpSure uses a 1060 nanometer laser to disrupt fat cells. These lasers target adipose tissue and heat them up to between 42 and 47 degrees Celsius, which damages the structural integrity of the fat cells. The body’s lymphatic system gets rid of these damaged cells naturally. Most people require several treatments for the best results.

VASER Liposuction

The cavitation effect of ultrasonic cavitation using ultrasound waves is really what makes it so similar to VASER. In medical environments, cavitation refers to the process of forming bubbles which break apart fat. However, VASER lipo requires the insertion of a tube to physically remove the fat after its broken apart via sound waves, whereas during ultrasonic cavitation, the body eliminates it naturally. Because of this, with VASER, there tends to be more scarring, downtime, swelling and bruising.

Surgical Body Contouring

Of course, there are ways to zap away fat through surgery. One example of surgical body contouring is Athenix, which uses water-assisted liposuction machines to to dislodge fat that is then sucked out by traditional surgical cannulas. Similarly, Sono Bello procedures use power-assisted lipo machines as well as cannulas. These body contouring options are not quite as invasive as traditional liposuction or tummy tucks, but they still use certain traditional, surgical techniques to get rid of the fat. This allows patients to get the best results relatively quickly — usually with just one treatment session — but it also means that there are more side effects and a longer recovery time than with ultrasonic cavitation.

Cold Laser (Zerona)

This FDA approved non-surgical body contouring option uses a cold laser to emulsify fatty tissue in the treated areas. It’s kind of like a mix between CoolSculpting and laser lipo. Patients are required to undergo six painless, 20-minute treatments for the best results. The downside of Zerona is that recovery must be accompanied by serious diet and exercise, as results aren’t as long-lasting as other types of body contouring treatments.

One of the most important things to consider when deciding on any cosmetic surgery procedure is that your doctor will have the answer to which one is best for you.

» In other words, step No. 1 in your body contouring journey should be to find a board-certified plastic surgeon who can provide you with the right advice based on your unique expectations.

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