The Anatomical Basis of Cellulite Dimple Formation: An Ultrasound-Based Examination

Lauren A. Whipple, Craig T. Fournier, Adee J. Heiman, Amanda A. Awad, Malcolm Z. Roth, Sebastian Cotofana, Joseph A. Ricci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Cellulite is a common aesthetic condition that affects the majority of women. It is characterized by the inhomogeneous appearance of the skin overlying the gluteal and the posterior thigh region. Despite a wide array of treatment options, little has been done to evaluate the anatomical basis of cellulite formation. This study used ultrasound to visualize subcutaneous changes of cellulite to aid with treatment guidance and complication avoidance. Methods: Cellulite dimples were examined on the bilateral thigh and buttock regions of 50 consecutive women and each dimple was scored with the Hexsel Cellulite Scoring System based on severity. Cellulite dimples were then analyzed by ultrasound to identify the presence, orientation, and origination of subcutaneous fibrous bands and the presence of associated vascular structures. Results: Two hundred total sites were examined, with 173 dimples identified. Of these, 169 demonstrated the presence of fibrous bands (97.6 percent). The majority of bands demonstrated an oblique (versus perpendicular) orientation to the skin (84.4 percent), with the majority (90.2 percent) taking origin from the superficial fascia (versus the deep fascia). Overall, 11 percent of bands had an associated vascular structure. When stratified by body mass index, overweight and obese patients had a higher likelihood of having an associated blood vessel visualized (p = 0.01). Results were similar for dimples in the thigh compared to those located in the buttock region. Conclusions: Ultrasound appears to be a valid technique to image the subcutaneous architecture of cellulite. This technology can help guide surgeons in real time to improve outcomes and minimize complications while performing cellulite treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375E-381E
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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