Updated: Oct 2, 2020
Ultrasonic cavitation, also called ultrasonic lipolysis, is a body contouring treatment that is used to remove fat deposits under your skin. It can also be referred to by brand names, such as Liponix or Ultrashape.
This procedure is a safer alternative to surgical options, like liposuction. The treatment uses ultrasonic radio waves to break apart fat cells, which are then absorbed into your body by your lymphatic system.
Ultrasonic cavitation is different than other similar treatments, like ultrasound liposuction, because it doesn’t require any incisions. This means recovery is easier. It also means that results might be less noticeable.
The ideal candidate for ultrasonic cavitation:
is in good overall health
has realistic expectations
is already within 7kg of their goal weight
Ultrasonic cavitation is meant to target small areas of fat and help contour your body. It isn’t a treatment for people who are trying to lose a lot of weight. The verdict is still out on how well ultrasound cavitation works. There’s promising evidence to suggest that this is an effective body contouring treatment. If you’re considering this treatment for yourself, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the costs, side effects, procedure, recovery time, and more.
How does ultrasonic cavitation work?
Ultrasonic cavitation relies on ultrasound technology to break apart fat cells. Ultrasound waves are sent deep into the layers of your skin, causing a disruptive vibration. Fat cells then break apart from each other and are dislodged from your dermal layers.
After a few days, the fat cells are absorbed by your lymphatic system and drained as waste from your body. It’s difficult to tell how effective this treatment is, but recent research is promising. A small 2019 study Trusted Source tested the effectiveness of ultrasonic cavitation for 50 women who were considered medically overweight.
Half of the women simply followed a low-calorie diet, while the other half had the low-calorie diet with radiofrequency and ultrasound body contouring procedures. After 5 weeks, the women who had been given ultrasonic cavitation showed a reduction in body fat mass.
Interestingly, they didn’t lose more weight than the other group — they simply lost body fat.
Another small study Trusted Source done much earlier in 2007 followed 30 individuals who were all given ultrasonic cavitation body contouring treatment.
Participants all saw a reduction in body fat mass after three treatments. The treated body fat area was reduced in size by one to three centimeters at the conclusion of the study.
This study also showed that study participants didn’t lose weight – they just lost fat.
What happens during an ultrasonic cavitation session?
The procedure for ultrasonic cavitation is pretty straightforward. On the day of your appointment, your doctor may ask you to undress in private and put on a paper gown, depending on the area of your body that you’re treating.
The area to be treated may be sterilized using alcohol. Using a handheld ultrasound device, they’ll slowly go over the target area of your body. You may feel a warm sensation during the procedure and hear a buzzing from the ultrasound machine. Treatments typically take between 40 minutes to an hour.
Targeted areas for ultrasonic cavitation
Some studies Trusted Source suggest that this treatment is most effective at reducing fat in “fibrotic” places in your body, which include the back and chest area. Ultrasonic cavitation is also frequently performed on the:
Ultrasonic cavitation side effects
Ultrasonic cavitation is considered a low-risk treatment for most people. Common side effects include:
In some cases, the skin won’t absorb the fat evenly after it breaks down. Lumps, bumps, and valleys on your skin can appear after ultrasonic cavitation treatment. These skin irregularities may be resolved by follow-up treatments.
What to expect after ultrasonic cavitation
After ultrasonic cavitation, you should be able to stand up and drive yourself home. Pain and bruising are usually minimal. You’ll be instructed to hydrate as much as possible after the procedure to help your body flush the fatty cells through your lymphatic system. But don’t expect to see results right away.
Right after your appointment, your body might feel puffy or swollen. It takes time for your body to break down and dissolve the fat cells that have been dislodged. You may also require repeated treatments to see visible results. Most candidates for this treatment see their final result within 6 to 12 weeks. On average, treatment requires 1 to 3 visits for visible results.
Results of this treatment are permanent, as long as you maintain a healthy diet and exercise. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, fat deposits may return to areas that have been treated.
Preparing for ultrasonic cavitation
To prepare for your appointment, your provider will give you detailed instructions, which you should follow carefully. Make sure that you disclose the following to your provider before your appointment:
any medical conditions you have
any herbal supplements you take
any medication that you’ve been prescribed
Avoid drinking alcohol for at least 48 hours before your appointment. You may also be advised to avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, in the 2 weeks leading up to your procedure. Drink plenty of water before and after your treatment so that your body can flush out fat deposits quickly.
Ultrasonic cavitation vs. CoolSculpting
Ultrasonic cavitation is a form of noninvasive body contouring, as is the CoolSculpting treatment. Both of these treatments have the same goal in mind: reducing fat and creating a slimmer silhouette. Neither treatment is a weight loss treatment, and both procedures are safer and less invasive than liposuction.
Ultrasonic cavitation gets rid of fat cells by using ultrasound frequencies, while CoolSculpting works with your body’s natural response to cold temperatures to get rid of fat.
CoolSculpting treatment is generally more expensive than ultrasonic cavitation, and the time you spend in your provider’s office getting the treatment is longer.