Non-invasive subcutaneous fat reduction: a review

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2015 Sep;29(9):1679-88. doi: 10.1111/jdv.12994. Epub 2015 Feb 9.


The risks, financial costs and lengthy downtime associated with surgical procedures for fat reduction have led to the development of a number of non-invasive techniques. Non-invasive body contouring now represents the fastest growing area of aesthetic medicine. There are currently four leading non-invasive techniques for reducing localized subcutaneous adipose tissue: low-level laser therapy (LLLT), cryolipolysis, radio frequency (RF) and high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). To review and compare leading techniques and clinical outcomes of non-invasive subcutaneous fat reduction. The terms 'non-invasive', 'low-level laser', 'cryolipolysis', 'ultrasound' and 'radio frequency' were combined with 'lipolysis', 'fat reduction' or 'body contour' during separate searches in the PubMed database. We identified 31 studies (27 prospective clinical studies and four retrospective chart reviews) with a total of 2937 patients that had been treated with LLLT (n = 1114), cryolipolysis (n = 706), HIFU (n = 843) or RF (n = 116) or other techniques (n = 158) for fat reduction or body contouring. A majority of these patients experienced significant and satisfying results without any serious adverse effects. The studies investigating these devices have all varied in treatment regimen, body locations, follow-up times or outcome operationalization. Each technique differs in offered advantages and severity of adverse effects. However, multiple non-invasive devices are safe and effective for circumferential reduction in local fat tissue by 2 cm or more across the abdomen, hips and thighs. Results are consistent and reproducible for each device and none are associated with any serious or permanent adverse effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cryotherapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Lipectomy / methods*
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / methods*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Subcutaneous Fat*
  • Ultrasonic Therapy / methods*