Mesotherapy takes a shot at cellulite

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

I often wonder how far a person will go to change their appearance.

Take, for example, Cher, who is wrapping up her "Farewell" tour for the 5th time in the last decade. Where do we begin? A tummy tuck, buttock lift, nose job(s), face-lift, navel surgery, liposuction, cheek implants, lip enhancement, breast job, ugh! Where does it end?

Let's face it, people today are changing their looks like they're changing underwear. A shot of Botox here, a dose of collagen there, a few snips and tucks all over, you name it. It's being done. But hey, if that's what knocks your fat and years off, so be it.

Yet, what cosmetic procedure is defined as acceptable by the public? Botox? A protein complex which contains the same toxin as food poisoning? Liposuction? That wonderful surgical process that sucks the fat from key areas and has lead to several deaths? Who has the answer?

On a recent trek to find answers (and to watch a procedure), photographer Judith Sagami and I went to the office of Dr. Lance Maki in Walnut Creek, where he and his wife, Kristine, RNC, WHNP, perform mesotherapy on willing patients.

Mesotherapy, for those who don't know, is a non-surgical procedure that involves injecting microscopic quantities of natural extracts, homeopathic agents, pharmaceuticals and vitamins into the skin. It eliminates, or can reduce, cellulite and fat, treats aging skin and for crying out loud, can cure migraine headaches!

Cellulite, by the way, afflicts all ages, sizes and genetic backgrounds and can be found in more than 90 percent of adult women, and some men. I just had to add this in here.

The courageous patient willing to be photographed is Grace, a 32-year-old woman who said the reason she has this done is to lose weight and become healthy enough to have a baby.

Grace is making her sixth visit to the doctor since July 2004, with each visit costing between $350 to $500. For insurance purposes, this is considered a cosmetic procedure. I guess they don't see this as a way to stay healthy.

To date, she has lost about 35 pounds and has gone from size 16 to 10. Not bad, but the loss is also attributed to diet and exercise.

Grace's fat and cellulite extraction began months ago with her legs. And based on the "before" pictures I saw, the mesotherapy has worked. She now has smooth legs, practically cellulite free. Really. I saw them.

Next task - get rid of the abdomen fat. That's what we had the pleasure (?) of watching them do.

A local anesthetic is applied to the targeted area before Kristine outlines the areas of attack with a surgical marker. With Dr. Maki on one side and Kristine on the other, both armed with a medicine-filled injection held by a gloved hand, they begin the process - a ricochet of shots to the fatty areas, one shot after another, nonstop, leaving behind tiny pinholes of blood. Dozens of them. It was like looking at a giant cookie with red sprinkles.

Any pain? No, Grace says. "I don't really feel anything."

"We use a small gauge on patients so the needle shouldn't be uncomfortable," Dr. Maki said of the needle that reaches the mesoderm layer. He continues to jab the fat while I watch on in horror.

"Dr. Pistor, who invented this, said a little bit of medication in the right place will do a lot of things," Dr. Maki says. "It just makes it go away."

Go away? How does fat simply disappear from your body? Where does it go?

"It dissolves the fat and the fat is turned into fatty acids which the body uses as fuel," he informs me. "So it doesn't return to that area. The key is you have to be doing something else or that fat will go somewhere else."

In other words, the patient needs to be in an exercise program while maintaining a proper diet in addition to receiving treatment. Makes sense.

"The three work wonderful together," Kristine says, as she wipes the blood off Grace. "We have patients who don't do all three yet have great results."

Still mesmerized by the countless shots Grace just received, I did manage to ask about results. I mean, c'mon, is this worth it?

"I do my very best to tell them how many treatments they need, and along with that, how much the treatment will cost each time," Kristine says. Any shots after the amount Kristine originally committed to are free.

"It's only fair to the patient," she says.

For cellulite patients, expect to have results between 10 and 20 treatments, although you may start to see a change after your fifth dose.

"If a person is metabolizing well, they're going to respond quicker," Dr. Maki adds.

Dr. Maki, who was a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force and an aerospace physiologist, is an obstetrician/gynecologist, while Kristine was a labor and delivery nurse for more than 15 years. Together, the care and wellness of their patients is paramount.

"For every patient that comes in, we do a history on them, a physical and we see where they're at metabolically," Dr. Maki says. "You have to treat the whole patient, not just one area."

Both Dr. Maki and his wife are graduates of the Bissoon Institute, where they studied mesotherapy. According to Dr. Maki, there are only a handful of mesotherapists in California, and he's one of them.

Mesotherapy is for some folks, like those who are conscious about their looks. I just think I'd rather age gracefully.