To the delight of many, the FDA has now approved the coveted drug Kybella, an injectable drug intended to melt away chin fat. Dallas Plastic Surgeon Dr. John Burns, explains “the double chin (medically known as “submental fullness”) that has plagued people of all shapes and sizes has finally met its match, thanks to the newly approved therapy.”
Kybella is made from deoxycholic acid, which is a naturally occurring molecule in the body to help absorb fats. When injected into the fat below the chin, it destroys the fat cells. Until now, those who wanted to reduce a double chin would have to have liposuction. Liposuction, however, is somewhat invasive and requires a few days of recovery. With Kybella patients can be back at work within an hour of the injection. Sound too good to be true? Let’s learn more.
Does it really “melt” away a double chin?
It’s much different than an ice cube on a Texas sidewalk. It is basically disrupting the fat cell membrane. Once the membrane is destroyed the fat cell can release its fatty contents and the body can metabolize the fatty contents.
Who will administer it?
As the FDA stipulates, Kybella treatments “should only be provided by a licensed health care professional.” Dermatologists and Plastic Surgeons will most likely be those first trained to administer. As with any cosmetic procedure, be cautious about who is administering Kybella. Doctors without proper expertise may offer the drug. For example, a doctor offering Kybella but who is certified in Internal Medicine instead of Plastic Surgery may not have the proficiency.
How many treatments will I need?
You can receive up to 50 injections in one single treatment, with up to six treatments administered no less than one month apart. It will almost always take more than one treatment.
Can anyone receive Kybella as a treatment?
Almost anyone can receive the treatment. However, the drug is not approved for kids under the age of 18. Doctors will screen patients carefully to make sure that their submental fullness is indeed fat and not the result of something else, such as cervical lymphadenopathy (enlargement of cervical lymph nodes in the neck) or thyromegaly (enlargement of the thyroid).
Once the fat is dissolved, what happens to the excess skin?
If doctors are waging war at fat in your chin and the fat disappears, that leaves you with some leftover skin, right? Technically, the risk exists with liposuction as well. For liposuction patients with particularly elastic skin tone, the loose skin is not that noticeable after a few months. But for some, chin or neck liposuction is often paired with a neck-lift surgery. Doctors administering Kybella are advised to screen for patients who have excessive skin in the chin area or any condition for which reduction of submental fat may result in an aesthetically undesirable outcome.
What can be expected with recovery?
After the initial injection, there can be some swelling and tenderness for a few days. But it is not an invasive procedure, so the recovery is much faster than recovery from liposuction. Possible side effects including swelling, bruising, pain, numbness, redness, difficulty swallowing and nerve injury in the jaw that causes facial muscle weakness. If injected incorrectly, it could destroy the wrong kinds of cells — including skin cells.
Can Kybella be injected anywhere to melt away fat?
Kybella is only approved for the chin area and it must be applied extremely skillfully. If a doctor were to hit the marginal mandibular branch of the facial nerve, the patient could end up with an asymmetrical smile. If the doctor doesn’t insert the needle deep enough, it could cause skin ulceration (hence the required training). This procedure is not a way to lose weight, it is a cosmetic procedure for an aesthetically pleasing result.
Talk to your plastic surgeon or dermatologist to decide if Kybella is right for you. Balance the desire to look one’s best with that pressure to look perfect.
Dr. John Burns is a Dallas Plastic Surgeon and Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Burns is a member of the prestigious Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Burns, click on his profile or call his office at 214-515-0002. Dr. Burns has been named Top10MD for two years – an honor only 1-in-3 doctors succeed within the United States.