If you are considering using a non-invasive fat-reduction treatment to shave a few inches of stubborn fat off your stomach, thighs or other area of the body, you probably have questions about which technique is right for you. Read on to find out the answers to some of the most common questions about fat-reduction techniques.

What non-surgical fat reduction treatment methods are currently available?

Ultrasound and cold energy (cryolipolysis) are two techniques that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for non-surgical fat removal. Liposonix is a well-recognized system using high-intensity-focused ultrasound. CoolSculpting, by Zeltiq, is a popular treatment technique that uses cold energy for fat removal.

Ultrashape is another widely publicized ultrasound treatment that is currently awaiting FDA approval. The treatment is not yet available in the United States.

Zerona is an earlier non-invasive fat-reducing technique that uses cold laser technology.

Are non-invasive fat reduction techniques effective?

“The results seen with non-operative fat-reduction treatments are not as drastic as those seen with Liposuction,” says Houston-area plastic surgeon, James Boynton, MD, of Boynton Plastic Surgery. Still, Dr. Boynton agrees, most patients can expect modest results. Most experts agree it’s reasonable to expect a loss of one, two or more inches and a reduction of one clothing size with treatment.

Patients who opt for CoolSculpting can expect to see a noticeable reduction of fat in the treated area, according to the company website.

The Zerona website claims patients using their treatment have lost an average of 3.64 inches around the waist.

Is non-surgical fat reduction for me?

Non-invasive fat-reduction methods work best for those patients who are in good overall health and minimally or moderately overweight. “These techniques are usually not recommended for those who are severely overweight,” says Cameron Rokhsar, MD, of New York Cosmetic Skin & Laser Surgery Center.

Liposonix is recommended for those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or less.

Treatments typically require you to have an inch or more of excess fat at the treatment site. It’s also important for those considering non-operative fat reduction to have realistic expectations since fat loss is usually limited to small amounts.

What body parts can benefit from non-surgical fat reduction?

Most treatments are approved for the abdomen and waist areas. Some are also effective for the inner and outer thighs, hips, back, buttocks, flanks and arms.

How long does it take to see results?

Results from non-surgical fat-reduction techniques are not immediate. Most patients can expect to see maximum results after three to 12 weeks, depending on the treatment method used. Some CoolSculpting patients continue to see changes for up to six months.

How many treatments are required?

Depending on which technique is used, treatments can range from a single session to multiple ones. Patients who opt for Liposonix can expect to undergo one treatment lasting from 30-60 minutes. With Zerona, a total of six treatments are recommended. Those undergoing CoolSculpt may achieve results in a single treatment or may chose to proceed with multiple treatment sessions.

Are treatments painful?

Most patients experience only mild-to-moderate pain at the time of the procedure, and some mild discomfort may be present for a week or two following treatment.

What are some common side effects?

Some patients experience redness, mild swelling, site tenderness, numbness and/or bruising at the treatment site.