What Is CoolSculpting?

CoolSculpting is the brand name for a fat-freezing method that aims to get rid of stubborn fat in certain parts of your body. Its medical name is "cryolipolysis," and the FDA approved the process in 2010.

Scientists came up with the idea for CoolSculpting by studying what happens to fat during frostbite. Fat freezes at a higher temperature than skin. The cryolipolysis device cools your fat to a temperature that destroys it while leaving your skin and other tissues unharmed.

Cryolipolysis isn't surgery and doesn't use needles. The device holds the part of your body your doctor wants to target between two paddles. The paddles cool quickly and your doctor leaves them in place for about 35 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. During that time, the process destroys about 20%-25% of the fat cells in the area that's targeted.

The final results may not show up for a few months, but you may start to see some changes within a few weeks. Your immune system clears out the dead fat cells slowly over this time.

Who Is It For?

Cryolipolysis isn't a way to lose weight. Your doctor might suggest it if you've tried diet and exercise and haven't been able to get rid of certain fat bulges.

You should avoid cryolipolysis if you have:

  • Loose skin
  • Poor skin tone
  • Cryoglobulinemia (a condition where abnormal proteins in your blood thicken in cold temperatures)
  • Cold urticaria (a skin condition that causes hives on your skin when it gets cold)
  • Paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria (a type of anemia that destroys your red blood cells when you're in cold temperatures)

A doctor can use cryolipolysis to help you kill fat cells in areas of your body such as:

  • Under the chin and jawline
  • Thighs
  • Belly
  • Back and sides
  • Under the butt
  • Along the bra line
  • Upper arm

What Are the Risks?

You can get cryolipolysis done at your doctor's office, and you don't need to schedule recovery time afterward. It's OK to drive yourself home from the appointment.

There are a few side effects. During the process, you may feel a pulling or tugging on your skin and an intense cold. Afterward, you may feel sore, like you've been exercising. You may also swell a little.

Continued

Rarely, cryolipolysis can cause mild or moderate pain afterward. You're also at a slight risk of nerve pain.

Sometimes your skin can look less smooth afterward. Less than 1% of people who get it done have a complication called paradoxical fat hyperplasia. When this happens, the number of fat cells in the area of treatment increase instead of decrease. You're three times more likely to have this happen if you're a man. People of Hispanic descent are also more likely to have this side effect.

Does It Work?

Studies show that cryolipolysis is safe and effective. The risks are few and rare. There's no damage to your liver. Side effects are mild, too, and go away after a short time. On average, it lessens the amount of fat in targeted areas by 10%-25%.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on October 13, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: "Does fat freezing yield results similar to liposuction?"

Mayo Clinic: "New fat-reduction treatment leads to positive results."

American Society of Plastic Surgeons: "Nonsurgical Fat Reduction: What is Cryolipolysis?"

Coolsculpting.com: "Clinical Information."

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: "Cryolipolysis for fat reduction and body contouring: safety and efficacy of current treatment paradigms."

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