If you’re considering liposuction but not looking forward to the prospect of surgery or prolonged recovery period, you may want to consider cryolipolysis. Cryolipolysis or CoolSculpting is considered an alternative to liposuction and can be effective in reducing fat in targeted hard to lose fat areas including the abdomen, hips, and inner thighs. An analysis of 2015 research in Lasers Surg Med concludes that CoolSculpting “presents a compelling alternative to liposuction”, “appears to be safe in the short term”, and “results in significant fat reduction”.
What is CoolSculpting?
CoolSculpting is a non-invasive medical treatment that uses an FDA approved device to reduce targeted areas of body fat helping to contour and shape those areas. CoolSculpting is not meant for overall fat reduction but rather primarily applicable to limited discrete fat bulges. It reduces the fat thickness in targeted areas of people whose weight is stable. The cryolipolysis procedure results in an average 20% reduction of fat in the treated area. It doesn’t require anesthesia, needles, surgery, or any down time.
Unlike Maintaining your weight and participating in a healthy diet and exercise should keep your results stable. If you should gain weight no new fat cells develop in the treated area but the remaining fat cells can become larger.
So, How Does CoolSculpting Work?
In CoolSculpting, specialized tool is used to sucks the skin and underlying fat into a cup that’s made up of two cooling panels. The device works by thermal conduction which removes heat from the skin at a constant rate while cooling the localized fat to a near 4 Celsius. Exposure to this cooling process causes the fat cells to become crystallized (frozen) which in turn triggers inflammation of the fat cells resulting in natural cell death of the targeted fat cells. The vacuum adds to the inflammatory response by drawing blood up to the surface layers of the skin. The inflammation starts 3 days after treatment, peaking at 30 days. Gradually over the course of several months the fat cells die off and are naturally eliminated by the body resulting in a reduction of the fatty tissue layer. Changes in fat contour may be seen as early as 3 weeks after treatment with the most dramatic results occurring after 2 to 4 months.
Both animal and human studies have shown a 20%-80% reduction in fat thickness occurring in the first 3 months following treatment. More than one treatment can be used, but the results of the second treatment may not be as dramatic as the first. The overall outcome is a smoother more toned appearance as the fat cells die off. Initial indications also support that CoolSculpting improves skin texture and laxity, with a tightening of the lose skin; however, more studies are needed.
What You Can Expect During the CoolSculpting Procedure
The cryolipolysis procedure is non-invasive, requires no cutting, no needles, no anesthesia, and no downtime. The CoolSculpting procedure is generally performed while you recline on a comfortable bed or reclining chair. The area to be treated is exposed as a specialized device resembling a vacuum cleaner hose with a long head is applied to the skin overlying the fatty area.
For the first 3 to 5 minutes there’s a sensation of firm pulling and pressure and intense cold as the device sucks the skin and underlying fat tissue into the cup. As the fat tissue is cooled the skin will become numb and the feeling of pulling pressure is reduced. There is no breakdown in the skin tissue, frost bite, or damage to the skin, nerves or surrounding area because the fat cells treated die at temperature far warmer than the (-10c/14f) needed to cause skin damage. The device remains in place for forty-five minutes to one hour.
Depending on the number of devices available at the facility, multiple devices can be placed on various locations simultaneously. A normal session lasts between one and three hours depending on the number of applications needed. After removal of the device, the treated tissue will be raised, pink, and firm resembling a small brick that has been stuck in place. The treated area will be gently massaged returning the skin and fat to its original shape and contour. There may be some transient local redness, bruising and numbness of the treated skin which subsides. Typically if numbness occurs it is not associated with nerve damage and will resolve within a month.
To date, there have been no serious side effects reported and studies have shown no changes in blood lipid levels or liver function. In a study reported in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, of 528 patients with 2,729 applications, only three cases of mild or moderate pain were reported and those resolved within 4 days. In another study reported in the Dermatologic Surgery, 518 patients showed that 4% experienced severe pain during the first 5 minutes of treatment with the remainder reporting mild to tolerable pain. There have been a small number of patients (about 1 in 20,000 treatments) that report a paradoxical increase in fat thickness that was reduced by 68% in two months and 44% in four months after the addition of massage to the treated area.
Cost of CoolSculpting
The typical cost per CoolSculpting treatment area ranges from $750 to $1500 depending on the size of the applicator and the area being treated. Treatment time for general use/application is between 4560 minutes per site. Some cryolipolysis devices have a pair of applicators that can be used simultaneously reducing the overall treatment time when treating corresponding areas such as the sides of the stomach, back of legs and flanks.
Interested in learning more about CoolSculpting? Sign up for a support group in 2016 to learn about CoolSculpting and other non-invasive cosmetic procedures.