Expanding Use of Deoxycholic Acid for Body Contouring: An Experimental Model for Dilution

September 2021 | Volume 20 | Issue 9 | Editorials | 1017 | Copyright © September 2021

Published online August 25, 2021

Shauna M. Rice BSa, Joseph Caravaglio MDb, Renata Dalla Costa MDb, Arianne Shadi Kourosh MD MPHa,c

aMassachusetts General Hospital Department of Dermatology, Boston, MA
bBrown University Department of Dermatology, Providence, RI
cHarvard Medical School, Boston, MA



In the years since injectable lipolytic agent Deoxycholic acid (DCA) was FDA-approved for reduction of submental fat, its off-label use on the body, eg, bra-line lipolysis, treatment of lipomatous tumors, and body contouring are being increasingly explored.1 The growing interest in its applications for larger treatment areas on the body however is somewhat limited by the maximum of 10 mL of product that can be administered per treatment.2 Development of dilution protocols of DCA for distribution over larger surface areas while maintaining efficacy could meaningfully expand the arsenal of safe in-office body sculpting techniques.

In dermatology there are multiple successful precedents for dilution of products originally used for the face when repurposed for applications on the body. Injectable poly-Llactic acid and calcium hydroxyapatite, for example, required significantly more dilution to mitigate risks when transitioned to the body. Similarly, DCA, if diluted with lidocaine for example, could allow for treatment over larger areas with reduction in pain.3 To our knowledge, dilution beyond 0.3 cc lidocaine to 2 cc DCA has not been reported which may reflect concerns regarding the risk of altering the pH of the product due to a more acidic resultant solution. In anticipation of clinical studies, we demonstrate an experimental model for changes in pH with varying dilutions (Figure 1).

Using pH test strips, we tested different dilutions of DCA: with lidocaine, with lidocaine and epinephrine, and then both with sodium bicarbonate to mitigate injection pain and raise the pH of solution to closely approximate DCA (pH 8.3), as this basic pH is theoretically necessary to maintain the efficacy of the reaction.4 For comparison, DCA was also diluted with normal saline (Figure 2). Although the internal buffer in DCA, anhydrous disodium phosphate, is theoretically resistant to large pH changes, dilution of DCA with plain lidocaine should not go beyond a 2:1 ratio for risk of large pH shift (pH 6.5–7 in this case). Dilutions beyond this appear to overcome the internal buffer and significantly alter the pH. Adding epinephrine (pH 2.2–5) only furthers the pH drop. Addition of 8.4% sodium bicarbonate to 1% lidocaine with 1:100,000 epinephrine (approximately 1 mL:10 mL ratio), however, restored the target tissue pH around 7.5, which is close to the pH of DCA. Greater dilutions with saline may be possible given the pH effects were of less impact.

The addition of lidocaine with epinephrine may offer the added benefit of enhanced lipolysis, as catecholamines stimulate the lipolytic pathway via binding of beta adrenergic receptors on adipocytes.4 Therefore, we postulate that a mixture of DCA