What is Deoxycholic (Cholanoic) Acid Injection?: Uses & Side Effects

What is deoxycholic acid?

Deoxycholic acid—also known as cholanoic acid or 3α,12α-dihydroxy-5β-cholan-24-oic acid—is a type of secondary bile acid that is produced in the liver. This compound is produced naturally in the human body by intestinal bacteria action from cholate. It is also usually conjugated with glycine or taurine. Deoxycholic acid is important in ensuring that the normal digestive process happens smoothly as it emulsifies dietary fats in the intestine. Deoxycholic acid also facilitates the absorption and excretion of fats and sterols in the intestine as well as in the liver.

What are the indications for the usage of deoxycholic acid?

Thanks to progressive research and development in the medical industry, deoxycholic acid is now manufactured synthetically to help reduce the severity of moderate-to-severe fat below the chin (submental fat). This synthetic deoxycholic acid formulated for the purpose of reducing “double chin” marketed as Kybella or Belkyra. Synthetic deoxycholic acid is classified as a cytolytic medication, as it works by disrupting the cell membrane of adipose cells and stimulating targeted disintegration of fat cells. The adipocyte cytolysis process is followed by an inflammatory reaction that helps with clearing the broken-down fat cell remnants by macrophages. However, the efficacy of deoxycholic acid can be affected by albumin and tissue-associated proteins. Hence, it can only be used to shrink protein-poor subcutaneous adipose tissues. Other tissues like skin, muscles, and bone remain unaffected by deoxycholic acid.

How is cholanoic acid injected into the body?

Synthetic deoxycholic acid comes in the form of liquid injectable and is meant to be injected subcutaneously into the excessive fat tissues. The injection area and the number of treatment session depend largely on the patient’s condition and response to treatment.

Side effects of deoxycholic acid injections

Following the treatment session, patients will notice a gradual reduction of the submental fat. However, patients may also experience undesirable side effects such as injection site reactions including pain, numbness, swelling, and bruising; headache; and nausea. On the other hand, patients may also experience adverse side effects including weakness of the facial muscles, pain or tightness in the face or neck, and difficulty swallowing. These reactions require immediate medical attention at the nearest hospital to prevent serious health complications.