Cosmetic Dermatology

Advances in Minimally Invasive and Noninvasive Treatments for Submental Fat

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RF-Assisted Contouring

Another exciting development in RF technology is truSculpt (Cutera), a noninvasive contouring device that is placed over the epidermis and emits RF energy that preferentially heats fat more than other tissue types. In a single-center prospective trial of efficacy and safety in the treatment of SMF, 17 patients received 2 treatments with truSculpt administered 1 month apart.8 At 1- and 6-month follow-up, 82.3% (14/17) and 52.9% (9/17) of patients showed improvement on physician assessment. Submental circumference and ultrasonographic fat thickness reductions at 1-month follow-up were 1.4 cm (5.7% of pretreatment circumference [P<.001]) and 5.4 mm (9.7% of pretreatment fat thickness [P=.005]), respectively. At further longer-term follow-up to 6 months, submental circumference was 0.9 cm (3.8% of pretreatment circumference [P<.001]) and ultrasonographic fat reduction was 6.8 mm (10.5% of pretreatment fat thickness [P=.006]). Commonly reported AEs were pain (rate not given), erythema (8/17 [47%]), edema (1/17 [6%]), and vesicle formation (1/17 [6%]); all were self-resolving. Erythema usually subsided within 6 hours posttreatment. No other AEs or complications were reported.8

Deoxycholic Acid

Deoxycholic acid (DCA)(formerly ATX-101) is an injectable liquid formulation of synthetic DCA that was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015 for moderate to severe SMF. Deoxycholic acid exists endogenously as a bile salt emulsifier and has been shown to cause dose-dependent adipocyte lysis, necrosis, disruption and dissolution of fat architecture, and inflammatory targeting of adipocytes by immune cells.9,10 Thus, DCA causes targeted adipocytolysis and is a novel medical agent in the treatment of SMF. Supplied in 2-mL vials, clinicians may inject 10 mL at each treatment for up to 6 treatments administered 1 month apart.11


REFINE-1, a pivotal North American–based phase 3 trial, investigated the efficacy and safety of DCA.12 A total of 506 participants with scores of 2 (moderate) or 3 (severe) on the Clinician-Reported Submental Fat Rating Scale (CR-SMFRS) and a mean BMI of 29 kg/m2 were randomized to receive preplatysmal fat injections of 2 mg/cm2 of DCA (n=256) or placebo (n=250). Participants received up to 10 mL of product (mean total of 25 mL of DCA across all visits) at each treatment session for up to 6 sessions depending on individual efficacy, with approximately 28 days between sessions. Sixty-four percent of the treatment group received all 6 treatments. At 12-week follow-up after the last treatment session, 70% of DCA-treated participants versus 18.6% of placebo-treated participants (P<.001) improved by 1 grade or more on the CR-SMFRS and 13.4% versus 0% (P<.001) improved by 2 grades or more. Skin laxity was unchanged or improved in 92.7% of the DCA group and 87.6% of the placebo group.12

REFINE-2, the second of the North American phase 3 trials, had parallel inclusionary criteria and study design and established efficacy of 2 mg/cm2 DCA over placebo in 516 participants (randomized 1:1).13 At 12 weeks posttreatment, 66.5% of DCA-treated participants versus 22.2% of placebo-treated participants improved by 1 grade or more according to the CR-SMFRS (P<.001) and 18.6% versus 3% improved by 2 grades or more in SMF (P<.001). Magnetic resonance imaging analysis of participants in the DCA (n=113) and placebo groups (n=112) showed that 40.2% versus 5.2% (P<.001) exhibited 10% or more reduction in submental volume, with similar comparative rates of SMF thickness reduction via caliper measurements.13


Safety data from REFINE-1 showed higher rates of treatment-related AEs in DCA-treated participants compared to placebo, including hematoma (70% vs 67.3%), anesthesia (66.9% vs 4.4%), pain (65.4% vs 23.4%), edema (52.9% vs 21.8%), induration (18.3% vs 1.6%), paresthesia (12.8% vs 3.2%), nodule formation (12.5% vs 0.8%), and pruritus (8.6% vs 3.6%).12 In this trial, 11 of 258 cases (4.3%) of marginal mandibular nerve paresis and asymmetric smile occurred, all in DCA-treated participants and with a median duration of 31 days. Dysphagia resolving in a median duration of 4 days occurred in 1.6% (4/258) of DCA-treated participants.12 REFINE-2 exhibited similar rates of common AEs. Complications of note were 14 cases of marginal mandibular nerve paresis (11 in DCA group, 3 in placebo group) attributed to injection technique, 1 case of skin ulceration possibly related to accidental injection into dermis, and 6 cases of dysphagia in DCA participants attributed to higher volume treatment sessions and postinjection swelling. Dysphagia lasted a median of 2.5 days and resolved without sequelae.13

Overall, DCA demonstrated high rates of minor injection-site AEs that resolved without sequelae and could be mitigated by comfort therapies (eg, lidocaine, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) as well as understanding the anatomy of the submental region. Adverse effects of particular interest included marginal mandibular nerve palsy, skin ulceration, and dysphagia.12,13

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