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Goodbye, Cellulite Thighs?

New Treatment May Reduce Difficult, Unsightly Skin Dimples

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

WebMD Health News

Oct. 10, 2006 -- A new treatment may give new hope to reduce cellulite, the unsightly dimpling of thigh and buttocks skin, researchers say.

It works by injecting an enzyme naturally found in the body to help improve the skin's appearance.

A New York plastic surgeon reported on the new treatment Tuesday at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons annual meeting in San Francisco.

"It's not perfect," Alexander Dagum, MD, associate professor and chief of plastic surgery at State University of New York at Stonybrook, says of the new treatment, which uses the enzyme collagenase. "But most of the patients were quite happy with the results."

The study was small, including only 10 women. He says more work needs to be done to fine-tune the treatment.

Study Results

Dagum injected collagenase five times in a circular pattern at the top of the back of the upper thigh, the area typically most affected by cellulite. Photographs were taken before and after the procedure, and the researchers evaluated how much better the cellulite looked at several time points after the injections.

Within a day, the women had a 77% decrease in the appearance of cellulite, he says, and by one month it was an 89% decrease. "At three months, it was 86% and at six months, 76%," Dagum says. Six months was the end of the follow-up, he says, so "we don't know how often we have to redo."

What Causes Cellulite?

"No one really understands the cause of cellulite," Dagum says. One hypothesis about how cellulite forms, says Dagum, is based on the idea that the connective tissue lattice work under the skin is different in men and women. In women, the lattice work makes it easier for the fat to protrude.

Over time, the woman's lattice work in the thigh and buttocks areas weakens and scars more than a man's, resulting in further irregularities.

In areas with scars, valleys form, he says, and in areas of fat protrusion, hills. The result is the unsightly dimpled appearance. Think of it as a bowl of Jell-O, Dagum says. If you push down on one side (the scarring) it has to come up on the other.

The collagenase, when injected, is thought to break down the areas of scar tissue that hold down the fat and help cause the dimpled look. It also is thought to break down some of the fat tissue, causing them to protrude less, helping to even out the hills and valleys and to restore normal contours.

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