Exclusive: Vanquish, a New Machine, Zaps Fat With No Pain
Spring is almost here and all across America, women are squeezing into skintight colored jeans and thinking, If only I could be one size smaller. Well, come September, a new fat-reduction machine will be available to help fulfill that wish—and this one may actually work. The Czech-made Vanquish device uses so-called “focused-field radio frequency” to zap fat without ever touching the patient’s body. Only a handful of the devices will initially be available, which means the line for appointments could be longer than a queue for Justin Bieber tickets.
Oh no, not another fat buster, you say. In the last 35 years, entrepreneurs have introduced a cavalcade of technologies to reduce fat, each with its own drawbacks. First came liposuction: It requires anesthesia and surgery and sometimes leaves patients with uneven results and weeks of bruising. Then there was ultrasound: A technician moves a handpiece over the body to deliver deep-diving sound waves that destroy fat below the surface of the skin. But it, too, requires pain medication. (One such device has been waiting a decade for FDA clearance.)
More recently, we have been offered cryotherapy, which kills fat cells by freezing them. Pretty cool in every sense of the word. But it’s slow going: Only one body section can be treated at a time, so to reduce a waistline, you need to treat each love handle, and then the upper abdomen, in back-to-back one-hour sessions. For the five minutes until the treated area becomes numb, cryotherapy feels like you’re sitting next to a block of ice. And afterward, it takes an hour to defrost the bulge of flesh that’s now as hard as a stick of frozen butter. Also awaiting FDA approval are various chemical injections that dissolve fat—with side effects including pain and swelling.
All of which explains the excitement that Vanquish, previewed at the recent American Academy of Dermatology meeting in Miami Beach, has been generating. It is approved for deep-tissue heating, a known method for targeting fat, and has minimal side effects. During four sessions spaced a week apart, the patient lies underneath an apparatus with adjustable panels that are positioned around the areas of the body to be treated but don’t actually touch them. Sensors built into the device “read” the patient’s body fat and customize the amount of energy the machine will deliver during each 30-minute treatment.
Although Vanquish heats the skin to 101 degrees, and the underlying fat to 120 degrees, one patient we interviewed says of the treatment that “it just feels warm,” like standing in front of a radiator. There can be a few days of mild redness and swelling. Patients are advised to drink plenty of water before and after, which helps the body eliminate the dead fat cells. According to early data from the manufacturer, BTL Aesthetics of Framingham, Massachusetts, there have been no complaints of nerve pain, and no damage to the top and middle layers of skin, hair follicles, muscles, or internal organs.
Of 25 patients studied, all had visible results after the first treatment and, after the full course of four sessions, 59 percent of abdominal fat was destroyed, on average, resulting in a two-inch (and in a few cases, a three-inch) reduction in waist size. And because the device kills fat cells themselves, not just the fat within cells, the results should be long lasting. So far, Vanquish is only intended for treatment of the abdomen, love handles, and back fat, at a projected cost of $2,000 for four treatments. Two grand for a waist that’s two inches smaller? A lot of women will think it’s worth it. But some may want to wait for more data, so stay tuned.