There’s a whisper going around the elegant waiting rooms of Harley Street’s finest plastic surgeons.
The word is that old-fashioned liposuction, once considered a quick-fix procedure that tackled everything from flabby thighs to double chins, is falling out of favour.
It’s not that the vain have become prettier or the plump suddenly skinny. The change is all down to that increasingly sparse commodity: time.
In the past few years a new range of weight-loss treatments that promise subtle improvements rather than major body reshaping have come on to the market.
It has long been the holy grail for slimmers: a gadget that would melt away fat without leaving a scar.
In the Seventies, there were vibrating belts and steam tents, and in the Nineties electric zappers that promised to help tone the midriff while you watched television.
In recent years, these have been replaced by ultrasound, infrared and vacuum technology.
But unlike their dubious forefathers, these new treatments have clinical trials to back up their claims. But can they really work?
Rajiv Grover, head of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), believes that within ten years, these new technologies will leave liposuction trailing in their wake.
‘If we look into a crystal ball, we may one day not be doing much major liposuction any more. For people who are toned and just need shaping, these will be the kinds of treatments that will be helpful.’
Still dubious? So was Kelly O’Brien, a 38-year-old mother of two from Hertfordshire. As Europe’s leading Dolly Parton Tribute Act, Kelly has to try to keep her waist as close to Dolly’s 20in as possible. But after giving birth to daughter Amber last year, she found it hard to slip back into her slender Dolly costumes.
Although Kelly, who is 5ft and weighs 8st, exercises four times a week and watches her diet, she could not shift the post-baby weight from her tummy or her lower back. Last month, she agreed to undergo a series of six sessions of a new non-invasive treatment called Med Contour at the Riverbanks Clinic in Harpenden, Hertfordshire.
After having traditional liposuction on her stomach ten years ago – which involves making incisions in the skin and inserting fine metal tubes called cannulas to suck out fat – and finding the pain after surgery ‘horrific’, Kelly had been nervous about having any more weight-loss treatments.
Yet she was astonished with the results of Med Contour, losing almost 2in from her waist and dropping a dress size.
The patient is required to lie on a consulting-room bed as an iron-shaped device beams ultrasound into the fatty tissue and then a nozzle the size of a vacuum massages the treated area.
Med Contour claims that high-frequency sound waves warm the fat cells so the fat is released. It is then massaged out of the problem area so that it drains into the lymphatic system, and is then flushed out with other toxins and waste products through the liver. The treatment takes just an hour and requires five to six sessions to shave inches off the patient.
These techniques do not offer the radical ‘big reveal’ changes of liposuction. But they do target the small, irritating bulges of fat that no amount of diet or exercise will shift. The course costs £700, which includes five sessions in a lymphatic drainage suit. The suit inflates and then deflates, and this gentle pressure helps to improve the flow within the lymphatic system so the body can expel any waste fat.
Kelly, who lives with her husband Ben, 38, a communications director, her nine year-old son Oscar and one year-old daughter Amber, says: ‘I had liposuction a decade ago without properly researching it. I didn’t like the fat pockets on my stomach and as a professional entertainer I had to get into tiny costumes.
‘I had ten incisions on my stomach to get the fat out and then had to wear compression pants for six weeks afterwards. After the operation it was so painful, it was horrific. Although it did remove those bits of fat, the recovery was so painful that I don’t think I would ever do it again.’