Background: Mesotherapy was originally conceived in Europe as a method of utilizing cutaneous injections containing a mixture of compounds for the treatment of local medical and cosmetic conditions. Although mesotherapy was traditionally employed for pain relief, its cosmetic applications, particularly fat and cellulite removal, have recently received attention in the United States. Another treatment for localized fat reduction, which was popularized in Brazil and uses injections of phosphatidylcholine, has been erroneously considered synonymous with mesotherapy. Despite their attraction as purported "fat-dissolving" injections, the safety and efficacy of these novel cosmetic treatments remain ambiguous to most patients and physicians.
Objective: To distinguish mesotherapy from phosphatidylcholine injections by reviewing their history and the relevant experimental or clinical findings.
Methods: A comprehensive search of Medline indexed literature and conference proceedings.
Results: All the published studies evaluating the clinical efficacy of traditional mesotherapy currently originate from Europe. These reports focus primarily on musculoskeletal pain and vascular disease, rather than cosmetic applications. Although experimental data suggest that a number of traditional mesotherapy ingredients may theoretically reduce fat, these effects have not been supported in peer-reviewed studies. An increasing number of reports demonstrate that subcutaneous injections of a formula containing phosphatidylcholine combined with its emulsifier, deoxycholate, are effective in removing small collections of adipose tissue. Cell lysis, resulting from the detergent action of deoxycholate, may account for this clinical effect.
Conclusions: Mesotherapy is distinct from a method of treating adipose tissue with subcutaneous injections of deoxycholate alone or in combination with phosphatidylcholine. Additional clinical and experimental studies are necessary to more definitively establish the safety and efficacy of these treatments.