CoolSculpting vs Liposuction

Christa Clark, MD, FACS
Article by
Sacramento Plastic Surgeon

CoolSculpting vs. Liposuction

As a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Christa Clark sees people every day that come to her and say: “What can you do to make this go away?”  Many times they are referring to the areas around the abdomen that are commonly called “love handles” or “muffin tops”.

There are several procedures that are designed to remove excess fat and contour a slimmer figure, and researching these various methods can be overwhelming. To help determine which is your best option, this article will compare two popular methods that Dr. Clark offers to her clients:  Liposuction and a revolutionary new procedure call CoolSculpting®. 

What is CoolScultping?
Dr. Clark: It is a non-invasive, non-surgical, clinically proven procedure to selectively reduce fat layers in problem areas using a patented cooling technology. It is a safe procedure cleared by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) that gently cools unwanted fat cells in the body to induce a natural, controlled elimination of fat cells. This reduces bulges in treated areas of the body without harming surrounding tissue.

In comparison, Liposuction is cosmetic surgery involving an operating room, anesthesia and a Surgeon making incisions to allow a cannula to be inserted under the skin to break up and suck the fat from various parts of the body. Liposuction is a more invasive approach to contouring the body but can also provide dramatic body contouring results.

How does it work?
Dr. Clark: With the CoolSculpting procedure, a non-invasive applicator delivers precisely controlled cooling to the treatment area to specifically target underlying fat, leaving surface skin tissue unaffected. When fat cells are exposed to extreme cold, a process of natural removal is triggered, which gradually reduces the thickness of the fat layer. The result is a visible reduction in fat bulges.

Exclusive to CoolSculpting, is the concept of “cryolipolysis” which is based on the principle that fat cells are more vulnerable to cooling than surrounding tissues. The result over a two to four month period is a noticeable, natural-looking reduction in fat. From cryolipolysis the cooled fat cells undergo apoptosis and are gradually eliminated, reducing the thickness of the fat layer.

When you ‘cool’ the fat in one area, what happens to the fat cells in the other areas? Do they move over to compensate?
Dr. Clark: Once the fat cells are killed from CoolSculpting, those cells are eliminated. As with Liposuction, fat will never deposit again in the same area that was treated. So there is no risk of fat from other areas moving over to the treated area to compensate.

What are the benefits of CoolSculpting?
• It involves no needles, surgery or downtime.  Since the CoolSculpting procedure is non-invasive, patients can resume daily activities including work and exercise, immediately following treatment.
• It is safe.  During the procedure patients can sit or lie comfortably and read, work on their laptop or even nap during the procedure. The procedure is performed in my medical office, under my supervision with a clinically trained staff member specializing in cosmetic procedures.
• It is convenient. The procedures last between one to several hours, so treatment can easily be performed during a lunch hour or without major disruption to the day.
• The results are visible. Patients can expect an undeniable reduction of fat in the treated areas in as soon as three weeks following treatment.

Is it safe? Painful? Are there side affects?
Dr. Clark: It is safe and generally comfortable for most patients. Typically, patients are comfortable enough to read, listen to music, or just relax during the procedure.

After the procedure some patients experience redness, tingling, bruising or numbness in the treated areas, but these are temporary and not experienced by all patients.

Liposuction on the other hand is a surgery; swelling and some bruising is expected after surgery and requires several days of downtime to recover after the operation. A compression garment is usually worn following the procedure to control swelling.  No garment is needed for a CoolSculpting procedure.

Does CoolSculpting work better than other competitive products/procedures?
Dr. Clark: The controlled cooling of CoolSculpting targets and eliminates only fat cells. Other treatment modalities such as lasers, radiofrequency, and focused ultrasound affect fat cells and may affect other adjacent tissue in a way that is not comparable to CoolSculpting. The results of CoolSculpting are not as rapid or dramatic as invasive procedures such as liposuction or a tummy tuck. Also CoolSculpting will only spot reduce target areas, it will not tighten skin.  But, if people want to avoid the higher cost, pain, risk and recovery time associated with surgical procedures, then CoolSculpting is an effective alternative for the right individual.

Am I a candidate?
Dr. Clark: This non-surgical method of fat removal is not intended as a weight-reduction program for overweight individuals. The best candidates for CoolSculpting are people near their ideal body weight who eat well and exercise regularly and have pockets of fat that have not responded to a healthy lifestyle. If you are looking to be rid of “love handles” or “muffin tops” but are not considering a surgical procedure, this may be the right answer for you.

If you are curious about this or any other cosmetic procedure, please give me a call to set up your personal consultation where we can discuss what your options can be.

Dr. Christa Clark
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon