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Fat-Dissolving Injections Evaluated by NECA: Safety, Effectiveness, and Patient Considerations

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Fat-dissolving injections aimed at improving appearance have recently been evaluated for safety and effectiveness by the Korea Institute of Health and Medical Research (NECA), under the leadership of Director Lee Jae-tae. This announcement provides a comprehensive look into the potential benefits and risks associated with these procedures, highlighting the necessity for careful consideration by individuals contemplating their use.

Fat-dissolving injections are procedures that involve injecting gas or drugs into the subcutaneous fat layer to remove localized fat in areas such as the abdomen, flanks, and thighs. When liquefied carbon dioxide is injected, it is termed carboxytherapy. When drugs are injected, it is referred to by various names, including mesotherapy, diet injection, contour injection, and obesity injection. The types of injectable drugs used include deoxycholic acid (DCA), choline alfoscerate (GPC), aminophylline, steroids, caffeine, hyaluronidase, carnitine, and verapamil. The timing and number of injections required for these treatments are not standardized.

NECA Assesses Cost, Usage, and Public Perception of Fat-Dissolving Injections

Given that fat-dissolving injections are non-reimbursed items with low medical necessity, it is challenging to estimate the exact cost and actual usage. An analysis of medical price comparison websites indicated that the average price of these injections is approximately 159,682 won, with a range from 4,000 won to 500,000 won. Before conducting their evaluation, NECA surveyed the NECA National Participation Group, which includes members of the general public, patients, and consumer groups. The survey provided insights into the public’s experience and perception of fat-dissolving injections.

Out of 85 participants, 15.3% (13 people) had either themselves or family members who had received fat-dissolving injections. Among the 13 respondents, 53.8% cited “weight management/diet” as their reason for undergoing the procedure, while 46.2% sought “improvement of appearance.” Regarding the effectiveness of the injections, 30.8% of respondents found them “effective,” 46.2% experienced “short-term effects,” and 23.1% deemed them “ineffective.” Additional questions covered treatment effectiveness, safety, target areas, methods, injection types, principles, and pricing.

NECA reviewed a total of 38 studies to assess the effectiveness and safety of fat-dissolving injections. Some studies reported short-term effects, but long-term effects could not be confirmed in most cases. Results from comparisons with sham treatments or no treatment showed no significant differences, casting doubt on the effectiveness of the procedures. The variability in the methods used across studies, including different medications, combinations, dosages, cycles, and frequencies, made it challenging to draw definitive conclusions about effectiveness.

Fat-Dissolving Injections

NECA Highlights Risks and Short-Term Benefits of Fat-Dissolving Injections

Short-term side effects such as pain, redness, bruising, and swelling at the injection site were common, while serious complications, though rare, included bacterial infections, skin necrosis, foreign body granulomas, acute poisoning reactions requiring intensive care, and drug urticaria reactions.

Kim Min-Jeong, head of the Health and Medical Evaluation and Research Division, emphasized that the lack of standardized procedures for fat-dissolving injections means that practices vary among doctors. She advised individuals considering these injections to make informed decisions by thoroughly evaluating the potential effects and side effects.

In conclusion, while fat-dissolving injections may offer short-term benefits for localized fat reduction, the lack of long-term effectiveness data and the potential for adverse effects warrant careful consideration. As these procedures are elective and not medically necessary, individuals should consult with healthcare professionals and weigh the benefits against the risks before proceeding. The findings from NECA highlight the importance of informed decision-making in the context of aesthetic medical treatments.

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Resource: The Korea Institute of Health and Medical Research, June 18, 2024

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