Liposuction is a well-understood, proven body contouring procedure, but it’s still more invasive than some people prefer. Non-surgical techniques, like Vanquish, CoolSculpting, and SculpSure, have therefore become extremely popular over the last decade. These procedures promise to emulate the results of liposuction, with little to no discomfort or downtime — but do they really work?
At our clinic in La Jolla, we’ve carefully reviewed the available information about Vanquish (and similar procedures) as part of our commitment to delivering the best care. If you would like to discuss the evidence supporting Vanquish in more detail, or learn about other fat reduction procedures, contact Dr. Robert Singer at (858) 455-0290.
How Does Vanquish Work?
Vanquish is a recent innovation in non-invasive fat reduction technology, having received full FDA approval in 2015. Vanquish uses radiofrequency (RF) energy to gently and evenly warm fat cells, which causes the lipids inside them to break down. Fat cells are relatively fragile, so they undergo natural cell death at temperatures that don’t harm skin or muscle cells. The Vanquish applicator doesn’t contact skin during treatment, and skin temperatures do not exceed 40 degrees Celsius, so this procedure is both safe and comfortable for our patients.
After your RF treatment, your body will harmlessly excrete fat cells destroyed by Vanquish through the liver and lymphatic system. This process is similar to how the body processes fat during digestion, and it will not harm your health in any way.
Most patients need several treatment sessions to produce optimal results, which appear gradually over the course of two to three months. Vanquish effectively removes fat from the abdomen, flanks, hips, and thighs, but unlike liposuction, it cannot contour very small areas (e.g., under the chin).
Does Evidence Support the Use of Vanquish for Permanent Fat Loss?
Though Vanquish is a relatively new entry to the world of thermal body contouring procedures, several studies have confirmed its ability to eliminate unwanted fat. Here’s what the evidence says about Vanquish.
Is Vanquish Safe?
Vanquish is one of the gentlest and least invasive types of body contouring, even when compared to similar non-surgical techniques. Unlike other thermal body contouring procedures, Vanquish will not cause significant inflammation or induce unpleasant sensations during treatment when applied correctly. Research shows Vanquish carries a very low risk of complications, and most patients who undergo RF fat reduction can resume their normal activities immediately after their appointments.
A European study analyzed a group of 20 patients with metabolic syndrome throughout the Vanquish treatment process and found no link between Vanquish and any long-term changes in autonomic function. This procedure only mildly and temporarily altered patients’ heart rates, breathing, and other vital functions, which shows Vanquish is very unlikely to cause cardiovascular or nervous system complications. Out of the 20 patients surveyed, none experienced any severe side effects.
Several patients reported mild side effects, including skin irritation and abdominal discomfort, but these symptoms resolved within a week. The study authors concluded that Vanquish is safe for eligible candidates.
A peer-reviewed study conducted in the United Kingdom confirmed Vanquish does not overheat dermal or subdermal tissue. Researchers found internal tissue temperatures did not exceed 45 degrees Celsius at any point during treatment, and the volunteers’ skin temperatures only reached 39.2 degrees Celsius. These temperatures didn’t have any adverse effects, but they were capable of speeding up the rate of natural fat cell death by 387%.
How Effective Is Vanquish?
Numerous studies attest to the efficacy of radiofrequency lipolysis. In the European study highlighted above, researchers observed a measurable reduction in waist circumference in all 20 patients who received Vanquish treatment. Another study, published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, looked at 26 patients who underwent six Vanquish treatments each on the lower abdomen. All of the volunteers showed reduced skin fold thickness after completing their treatments. (Skin fold thickness is a medical measurement of subcutaneous fat conducted using specialized calipers.)
Furthermore, almost half (40%) of the patients reported a noticeable improvement in skin tone. These findings support the notion that Vanquish is also effective for treating loose skin and cellulite.
Animal studies have also helped demonstrate the effectiveness of Vanquish. In one study, several Vietnamese pigs received Vanquish treatments at a certified veterinary facility, while under anesthesia to ensure their comfort. All the pigs showed a marked reduction in fat cell density after just four treatments, resulting in a 70% shrinkage of the abdominal fat layer. None of the pigs sustained any dermal injuries during treatment, and their hair follicles remained unaffected. Pigs and humans share many physiological traits, so these results are a reliable indicator of the Vanquish procedure’s ability to reduce fat in human subjects.
Are the Results of Vanquish Permanent?
Most body contouring procedures can induce permanent fat loss, and research shows Vanquish also meets this standard. A landmark four-year study of 13 Vanquish patients revealed that most people sustain their initial results. Patients in the study group preserved an average of 75.2% of their original body contouring results four years after completing treatment, including a continued reduction in abdominal circumference.
Though it’s clear that the fat cells destroyed by Vanquish do not grow back, we still advise our patients to maintain a stable weight after having this procedure. Some fat cells remain in place after all body contouring procedures — a necessary allowance to create a smooth, natural look — and these fat cells can expand if you gain weight.
How Does Vanquish Compare to CoolSculpting and SculpSure?
We know Vanquish is effective for treating diet-resistant fat, but what makes it unique? To help our patients understand what sets Vanquish apart from similar procedures, like CoolSculpting and SculpSure, we’ve compiled a list of its top four advantages.
1. Vanquish Has No Weight Limit.
Many body contouring procedures cannot be performed on patients who are overweight, either for safety reasons or because the technology is not effective on individuals with a high BMI. Vanquish is different: It produces excellent results on all patients, including those who have a BMI over 30. If you’re currently overweight, you can use RF body contouring without worrying about possible complications.
Vanquish is the best choice for very slim individuals, too. Unlike CoolSculpting, Vanquish does not require “pinchable” fat, so it’s an excellent way for lean candidates to achieve optimal muscle definition, treat specific problem areas, or improve their proportions.
2. Our Patients Say Vanquish Is More Comfortable Than Similar Procedures.
CoolSculpting and SculpSure are non-invasive, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t painful. A significant number of people experience burning, stinging, or unpleasant tingling sensations during these procedures, whereas Vanquish patients usually feel only a gentle warmth. Our patients say that undergoing Vanquish is relaxing and feels similar to getting a massage.
For about 10% of CoolSculpting patients, significant pain and inflammation continue for up to three weeks after treatment. Some CoolSculpting patients have also reported temporary numbness, bruising, and noticeable swelling following their procedure. Vanquish, by contrast, does not induce lasting discomfort. Any mild redness or skin irritation that occurs after this procedure usually goes away within only 24 to 48 hours.
3. Vanquish Removes More Fat Than Any Other Non-Surgical Body Contouring Procedure.
For years, non-surgical fat reduction has had one major drawback: Compared to liposuction, most minimally invasive body contouring procedures don’t remove a lot of fat. They typically create more subtle results.
While Vanquish cannot replace liposuction, it does demonstrate an enhanced ability to destroy fat cells vs. similar procedures. While SculpSure and CoolSculpting usually destroy just 20-24% of the fat cells in treated areas, Vanquish can reduce targeted fat deposits by up to 30%. Vanquish is also very efficient for treating large areas, an advantage that CoolSculpting does not have.
4. Vanquish Won’t Cause Skin Texture Abnormalities.
In one out of every 138 patients, CoolSculpting causes paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH), an aesthetic complication informally known as the “stick of butter” effect. This condition is not dangerous, but it does require surgical revision in the form of targeted liposuction.
PAH results from an abnormal physiological reaction to low temperatures: Though extreme cold often destroys fat cells, it sometimes causes them to expand and harden. These expanded fat cells then form a visible lump under the skin. This lump is often rectangular, like the shape of the CoolSculpting applicator, hence the term “stick of butter.” Without treatment, PAH is permanent.
Vanquish cannot cause PAH because it uses heat rather than cold to break down adipose cells. In all studies to date, Vanquish has consistently improved patients’ skin tone and firmness.
Is Vanquish the Best Way to Remove Fat?
Vanquish is perfect for people with mild to moderate skin laxity and cellulite who want to “spot-reduce” stubborn fat. As a very low-risk, zero-downtime procedure, Vanquish is a safe and practical option for most of our patients. If you want to lose a significant amount of weight, however, liposuction may still be the best choice for you, provided you’re comfortable with the idea of having surgery. When you visit us for a consultation, we’ll discuss both of these procedures with you and help you make an informed decision.
You should also be aware that, while Vanquish can tighten loose skin, it has limitations when compared to abdominoplasty (tummy tuck surgery). Vanquish can’t remove folds of sagging skin, so it’s not the best way to treat advanced skin laxity. If you’ve lost more than 50 pounds or you want to firm your belly after pregnancy, you’ll probably need a tummy tuck to get the results you want. Tummy tuck surgery is also the only way to treat abdominal muscle separation, a potentially dangerous condition wherein the tissue joining the abdominal muscles becomes torn.
Talk to Us About Vanquish in La Jolla, California
Vanquish is a great way to remove stubborn fat, but only a board-certified plastic surgeon can tell you whether this procedure is right for you. If you’re ready to explore body contouring in more depth, contact Dr. Robert Singer to arrange a consultation in La Jolla. Our helpful staff will be happy to answer any questions you have about Vanquish.