Treatment reduces look of cellulite, temporarily Fat: A mechanical device called Endermologie provides short-term improvement in ripply thighs.

August 09, 1998|By Shari Roan | Shari Roan,LOS ANGELES TIMES SERVICE Sun intern Young Chang contributed to this report.

Given all the products that have come and gone over the years claiming to rid the body of cellulite, it's OK to be skeptical about the latest miracle treatment.

But: There is a new, noninvasive treatment for that patchwork quilt of skin and fat that is the bane of thighs worldwide. And unlike some of its more dubious cousins, the new therapy - called Endermologie - earned approval from the Food and Drug Administration in May as "an effective treatment for temporarily reducing the appearance of cellulite."

It is the first time a treatment for cellulite has been granted the official right to make this claim.

But before you burst into tears of joy or run for your credit card, there are caveats to consider. The effectiveness of Endermologie - a mechanical device that administers a deep massage - varies widely among patients.

And the effects are only temporary.

And the therapy seems to work better among patients who are also exercising and dieting.

"It's safe - no one is having bruising, hematomas or welting," says Deborah Sarnoff, a dermatologist in New York who has independently studied Endermologie. "But in terms of efficacy, the key words are 'temporary' and 'the appearance of.' We can't lead people to believe, by any stretch of the imagination, that this is permanent."

Plastic surgeon Peter B. Fodor of the University of California, Los Angeles, has also studied the treatment and concludes that it is the combination of diet, exercise and Endermologie that produces a modest smoothing of the bumpy cellulite surface.

In Baltimore, Dr. William Arminger of the Chesapeake Plastic Surgery Association was skeptical at first, but was "stunned" when he witnessed it in Paris. So three years ago he installed one in his office.

Endermologie - developed in France and introduced in the United States in 1996 - was first approved by the FDA as a lTC muscle relaxer. But after the recent FDA action, 300 doctors - typically gynecologists, dermatologists and plastic surgeons - are installing the $25,000 units, distributed by LPG USA of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. A medical device, Endermologie can be offered only by doctors. Trained technicians administer the treatment.

It's not a quick fix, nor is it cheap. The average cost per initial treatment is $100 for 35 minutes, and many doctors offer packages of $1,500. It usually takes 10 to 20 initial treatments to get the best results. Then the look must be maintained with one or two treatments a month, which run about $45.

Cellulite consists of pockets of excess fat that usually form in women as they age. The fat is essentially trapped and becomes a reserve against starvation. It cannot be lost by diet or exercise.

"If you are a woman between puberty and menopause, it is the way our anatomy is," Sarnoff said. "The fat cells are grouped, and in between the groups are separate or dividing areas. During certain times of the month when we retain water, you see more of this dimpling effect. Even if you are very, very skinny."

Endermologie is thought to work by increasing the blood and lymphatic flow through the subcutaneous layer of the skin. It's a high-powered massage tool that consists of a treatment head and two motorized rollers with a suction device. Suction draws tissue up between the two rollers, lifting, folding, pulling. Some doctors say this increases blood flow and allows the body to target that part of the body to burn fat.

Endermologie does not affect muscle, skin or bones. It is painless and feels like a vacuum cleaner pressed against the skin .

Donna Perkins, a 50-year-old patient of Arminger's on her 13th treatment, says she noticed differences with her fourth treatment and is "very pleased." Because there are inevitable changes in skin texture as women age, Perkins' problem was that even with working out, she "could see the cellulite coming in."

Her technician, Sandra Cooper, says Perkins is "pretty close to ideal body weight."

As for how the treatment feels, Perkins says the body gets used to the pulling, almost "squeezing," effect. "It's an unusual feeling," she says. "Like grabbing your skin and pinching it almost. ... It's not painful, but I wouldn't say, you know, that you're in heaven."

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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