Compounds used for 'injection lipolysis' destroy adipocytes and other cells found in adipose tissue

Obes Facts. 2009;2(1):36-9. doi: 10.1159/000193461. Epub 2009 Feb 3.


Background: A widely applied technique to reduce subcutaneous fat pad size involves subcutaneous injection of a phosphatidylcholine preparation ('injection lipolysis'). As the mode of action is mostly unknown, we planned to study cellular effects of the particular drug used in Germany (Lipostabil(R)).

Methods: Human preadipocytes, adipocytes, vascular and skeletal muscle cells as well as renal epithelial cells were incubated in the compound, morphological changes were described, and cell vitality was measured.

Results: A strong cytolytic effect of the compound was signified by lipid release and acridine orange staining of dying adipocyte nuclei. When the undiluted compound was used, more than 90% of cell death occurred after 90 s in preadipocytes, after 6 min in vascular smooth muscle cells, skeletal myotubes and renal epithelial cells, and after 15 min in adipocytes. Dilution slowed down cytolysis, but still >50% of the cells disappeared during 30 min incubation. Neither osmotic effects nor differences in medium acidity were responsible for cell death.

Conclusion: Injection lipolysis with phosphatidylcholine as the major injected compound reduces subcutaneous fat pad size through cell and tissue destruction. Beside the lack of a clear risk-benefit analysis, applying this technique represents off-label drug use and application of a drug by a contraindicated route.

MeSH terms

  • Acridine Orange
  • Adipocytes / drug effects*
  • Adult
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections
  • Kidney / cytology
  • Lipectomy / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / cytology
  • Phosphatidylcholines / administration & dosage
  • Phosphatidylcholines / pharmacology*


  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • lipostabil
  • Acridine Orange