Studies have shown an average fat reduction of between 15 and 28 percent at around 4 months after initial treatment.
Cryolipolysis, commonly referred to as fat freezing, is a nonsurgical fat reduction procedure that uses cold temperature to reduce fat deposits in certain areas of the body. The procedure is designed to reduce localized fat deposits or bulges that do not respond to diet and exercise. It is not intended for people with obesity. The technique has been patented under the name CoolSculpting™.
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The Food and Drug Administration has approved cryolipolysis to treat fat deposits beneath the chin, upper arms, inner and outer thighs, abdomen, hip/flank (“love handles”), upper back (“brassiere rolls”), lower back, and underneath the buttocks.
The procedure can be done in a doctor’s office or outpatient clinic. The size and shape of the fatty deposit is assessed and the area to be treated is outlined with a skin-marking pencil. Patients are awake during the procedure.
A handheld device called an applicator is used to freeze the layer of fat cells (adipocytes) underneath the skin. First, a gel pad is applied to the area to protect the skin. Next, the fatty bulge is suctioned or vacuumed into the applicator’s hallow opening. You will feel a tugging or pulling sensation as suction is applied. These sensations, intense cold plus other possible sensations – tingling, stinging, aching, cramping – lessen after 5 to 10 minutes as the area becomes numb during the cooling down process. The fat layer is gradually cooled to the target temperature of between 30.2 and 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
It takes up to one hour to treat an area. After the area is treated, the applicator is removed. The area may be massaged for 2 to 3 minutes to assist with the breakdown of the fat cells.
The technique is based on the finding that fat cells are more susceptible to damage from cold temperatures than other cells, such as skin cells. The cold temperature injures the fat cells. The injury triggers an inflammatory response by the body, which results in the death of the fat cells. Macrophages, a type of white blood cells and part of the body’s immune system, is “called to the injury location,” to rid the dead fat cells and debris from the body.
Studies have shown an average fat reduction of between 15 and 28 percent at around 4 months after initial treatment. However, you may begin to notice changes as early as 3 weeks after treatment. Dramatic improvement is noticed after about 2 months.
There are many advantages to cryolipolysis:
Disadvantages of cryolipolysis include:
Cryolipolysis should not be performed on people with obesity. Also, it should not be performed on areas of skin that are cut or injured, contain severe varicose veins, dermatitis, or other skin lesions.
People who have abnormal cold sensitivity or cold intolerance are not suitable candidates. The procedure is not recommended for people who have the following conditions:
Other conditions that pose a risk include
Temporary side effects for the areas that are treated may include:
Side effects may persist for a few days to a few weeks after treatment. Your doctor may recommend that you take an analgesic medication to relieve pain or other discomfort.
You may have only one problematic area that may require only one treatment session. You may have more than one problem area that may require treatment or may need more than one treatment in a specific area to achieve your desired goal. You will work with your doctor to design a plan – and the number of treatment sessions – that will best meet your desired goals.
Total cost will depend on what goals you’d like to achieve. On average, the cost of a typical treatment plan ranges between $2,000 and $4,000.
Insurance usually does not cover the cost of elective cosmetic surgery and procedures.
The procedure should only be performed by a plastic surgeon, cosmetic surgeon, or other licensed skin healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns before undergoing the procedure.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/25/2019.
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