The Skinny on New Fat Loss Treatment
You may have heard people talking about the treatment that “freezes away fat” and wondered if it really works. The procedure is formally known as cryolipolysis, and it is a non-invasive way to reduce fat deposits that has been approved by the FDA to treat the areas of the love handles, abdomen and thighs. CoolSculpting is the brand name of the cryolipolysis device produced by Zeltiq Aesthetics.
As a doctor, whenever new medical products or treatments come to market I look closely at the science behind them. Scientists affiliated with Harvard University developed cryolipolysis based on the principle of “popsicle panniculitis,” a dermatologic condition observed in children who suck ice or popsicles, which has shown that exposure to cold temperatures can selectively damage subcutaneous fat. Cryolipolysis uses controlled cooling to target and crystallize fat cells. The crystallized fat cells gradually die off and are naturally eliminated from the body.
And to answer the original question, the treatment has proven to be quite effective at reducing fat tissue without damaging skin or other surrounding tissue. Best results are seen in patients of a healthy weight with discrete fat bulges. Typically a reduction of 20-30% of fat volume in the treated area will occur. An added benefit can be tightening of the skin following treatment, estimated to occur in 25-30% of patients. The effect on skin laxity is something my colleagues have been looking in to.
CoolSculpting has been available since 2010 but has really gained popularity over the past two years. More than 1 million procedures have been performed to-date and CoolSculpting is now offered in many dermatologist offices. One of the reasons for its popularity is the fact that there is minimal downtime for the procedure. In general patients can resume normal activity immediately.
Results may be visible about a month after treatment with the most dramatic results after two months. As with all aesthetic procedures, results will vary and for best results consult a doctor who is experienced and trained in the procedure to develop a customized treatment plan.
In terms of side effects, during the procedure you may experience pulling, pinching, numbness and some discomfort in the area being treated. Typical side effects following treatment include temporary numbness, redness, swelling, bruising, and mild pain.
A good first hand account of the CoolSculpting procedure was recently shared in Elle magazine. If it is something you are interested in, ask your doctor if you are a good candidate.