How is cryolipolysis performed?

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.

How are fat cells destroyed?

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.

How much localized fat can one expect to lose from cryolipolysis and when will I start to notice results?

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.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/25/2019.

References

  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Nonsurgical Fat Reduction: Cryolipolysis. Accessed: 11/9/2018.
  • Ingargiola MJ, Motakef S, Chung MT, et al. Cryolipolysis for Fat Reduction and Body Contouring: Safety and Efficacy of Current Treatment Paradigms.Plast Reconstr Surg. 2015;June 135(6):1581-1590.
  • Meyer PF, Costa e Silva JD, de Vasconcellos LS, et al. Cryolipolysis: patient selection and special considerations. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology 2018;11:499–503.
  • CoolSculpting by Zeltiq. CoolSculpting Procedure. Accessed: 11/9/2018.

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