Large volume liposuction

Large-volume liposuction (lipoplasty) is also offered as an option, with proponents of this technique arguing that the body can enter a state of malnutrition after bypass surgery. Tumescent liposuction is a technique claimed by some to be able to remove superficial and deep layers of fat with minimal discomfort to the patient, while avoiding the risks linked to lap-band or gastric bypass surgery.

The amount of fat that can be removed during each procedure depends on a number of factors, including the age and height of the patient, and how the fat is distributed. However, it is a slow procedure and results from large volume liposuction can take 6–9 months to become apparent; but its advocates claim that 60–90 lbs of weight loss via this method, which is now receiving more attention.

Lipoplasty, the largest market segment

Liposuction for more elective procedures is also increasingly popular. Globally, the number of lipoplasty surgical procedures performed by plastic surgeons in 2010 totalled 2.17 million procedures; this was equivalent to 23% of all procedures, says the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ISAPS). Abdominoplasty procedures numbered 681,344 (7.2% of the total), making it the number 5 procedure worldwide.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) reported a 6.3% rise in liposuction procedures in 2011. In men and women, it was the sixth most popular UK cosmetic procedure last year. This market’s commercial gains do not appear to have been affected by the economic downturn.

BAAPS president Fazel Fatah associates the ‘considerable’ rise in treatments such as tummy tucks (+7.2% in 2011) and liposuction with an increase in people undergoing obesity treatment such as gastric bands. ‘These patients are usually left with a lot of loose skin that causes physical problems and unsightly body contour, which can only be addressed with surgery,’ he says.

Striving for the perfect body

The market for opportunities for weight loss solutions shows no sign of diminishing, as recent survey data on consumer web activity attests.

The survey, Healthcare WebWatch 2012, which analyses UK clicking habits, showed that three of the top 20 most visited websites in the health and medical sector during March 2012 related to obesity, weight-loss and dieting. They were Weight Watchers UK (3rd); Weight Watchers UK Community (7th); and Weight Loss Resources (11th). First and second were NHS Choices and Boots, respectively.

[pull_quote align=”left” ]The market for opportunities for weight loss solutions shows no sign of diminishing.[/pull_quote]

The UK health and medical sites with the longest length of stay included: The Biggest Loser Club UK (1st); Weight Loss Resources (2nd); Weight Watchers UK (5th); and Weight Watchers UK Community (17th). This shows that large proportions of the public spend significant lengths of time on weight-loss websites, stress the survey organisers.

Key search terms included: slimming world; weight watchers, BMI calculator, weight watchers/weight watchers login/online, embarrassing bodies, weight converter, calorie counter, and Cambridge diet.

Among the 50 search terms driving traffic to cosmetic surgery websites, with relevance to weight loss/procedures were:  cosmetic surgery (3rd); liposuction (5th); tummy tuck (8th); liposuction cost (16th); gastric band (20th); laser liposuction (30th); liposuction cost UK (34th); laser lipo (40th); gastric band surgery (43rd); and vaser lipo (46th).

Such preoccupation with weight loss — whether medically needed or not — explains the buoyancy of the market for surgical and non-surgical remedies in this segment. Furthermore, innovative technologies continue to emerge, and the sector continues to attract investment.

Reimbursement challenge

The battle is ever-present for technology manufacturers to secure or extend reimbursement, and ethical and medical concerns are sometimes raised over weight-loss surgery. In addition, some insurance companies require proof of a patient’s participation in weight-loss programmes prior to approving reimbursement for surgery.

However, the market remains strong and continues to report growth, making it one of the most attractive bariatric/cosmetic surgery businesses for investors.