Kybella: Does It Really Work?

Updated on August 28, 2023

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 6.32.15 PM DSC_0525 copyBy Dr. Leo R. McCafferty and Dr. Flavia Davit

Since its approval by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this summer, Dr. Flavia Davit and I have been trained by Kythera Biopharmaceuticals (the manufacturer of Kybella) in its use for the treatment of submental fullness, otherwise known more commonly as the double chin.

As a board member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the Kythera scientists continued to update our organization and sought our opinions about its use over the past eight years.

The Kybella treatment works.

Submental fullness can impact a broad range of adults, both women and men and of average weight. There are a wide range of factors that contribute to it including aging, genetics, and weight gain.  Diet and exercise while always important have limited impact.

Our cosmetic surgery practice is particularly proud to be among the first in Pennsylvania to offer this treatment to our patients.  We have already completed the procedure numerous times with the anticipated positive results and very satisfied patients.

Two to three injections at six weeks intervals are needed at a cost of $1,200 per injection.  Patients undergoing the injection are in and out of the office in less than 30 minutes.

Adverse reactions have been very limited, but may include swelling, bruising, pain, numbness, redness and/or small areas of firmness around the treatment area.  The occurrence of these reactions has been very limited and even then dissipate quickly.

What is Kybella (also known as ATX-101) and how does it work?

It is a non-human and non-animal formulation of deoxycholic acid, a naturally occurring molecule in the body that aids in the breakdown and absorption of dietary fat.  When injected into the subcutaneous fat, Kybella causes the destruction of fat cells.  Once destroyed, those cells cannot store or accumulate fat and the area then flattens permanently.

The results are often dramatic, making this non-invasive option an alternative to liposuction of the neck for many patients.  However, the procedure will not treat sagging neck skin, so, it is not an alternative for a face or neck lift.

Kybella was the focus of a global clinical development program of 20 clinical studies with more than 2,600 patients worldwide, of which 1,600 were treated with Kybella.  The results were positive quantifiable, and confirmed with MRI examinations.

Our treatment with Kybella is customized to the individual patient’s goals and our analysis.

As with any new treatment option, off-label uses will be considered and might include treating small areas of fat elsewhere on the body, or contour issues, following liposuction.

It is important to remember, Kybella injections are not to be used for the treatment of large areas of fat like love handles or a big tummy, which are commonly treated with liposuction.

Kybella should only be administered by fully trained plastic surgeons or dermatologists.  This is not a treatment to undergo in some mall clinic!

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