Does freezing fat cells kill or preserve them?

I would like to try Coolsculpting on my inner thighs. But I read on this site that some doctors store fat injections in a freezer in order to keep them alive. So, how can Coolsculpting kill fat cells by exposing them to sub zero temperatures when doctors use a freezer to preserve fat cells? I'm confused about this.

Doctor Answers 9

Coolsculpting kills fat cells

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
The coolsculpting procedure kills fat cells and  are removed from our body by our own natural mechanisms . Fat cells can grow and shrink but cannot multiply therefore those that have been destroyed are gone forever. Fat which is harvested from an area of the body and frozen is a different story. The idea is that the fat when transferred back into a different area of the body would  " take" and live . You would need to speak with your plastic surgeon regarding this particular procedure .

Virginia Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Freezing fat permanently removes fat cells

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
When fat cells in the body (in vivo) are exposed to sustained low temperatures for a period of time, they undergo programmed cell death (apoptosis) and are permanently removed from the body via the actions of the immune cells called phagocytes. The fat cells must be present in a living person in order for programmed cell death (apoptosis) to occur. When fat cells are harvested from the body and frozen, programmed cell death (apoptosis) can no longer occur and the harvested fats cells can be preserved for future use. I hope this helps.

Adebola Dele-Michael, MD, FAAD
New York Dermatologic Surgeon

Does Freezing the Fat in CoolSculpt Kill or Preserve Them?

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
This is an interesting question. First off, CoolSculpt uses a process called cryolipolysis to kill fat cells. It doesn't kill all of the fat cells, and the temperature is low enough to damage fat cells but not the overlying skin (i.e. no frostbite). Approximately 15-20% of the fat cells are killed or injured in one CoolSculpt treatment. The remnants of these cells are carried away by cells in the body and excreted naturally. So, CoolSculpt damages or kills a percentage of the fat cells in the area being treated.
In fat that is harvested and stored in a freezer to be used for injection later it is possible that some of those fat cells are damaged or killed when they are harvested or in the freezing process (probably not nearly as much as the CoolSculpt procedure). However, the majority of those cells are preserved and may survive after thawed and injected at a later date. The difference may be in the temperature and the fact that in CoolSculpt the fat cells are still in the body. The freezing causes apoptosis or programmed cell death. Also, when the injured fat cells thaw in the body they may cause damage to other nearby fat cells, thus increasing the effect of CoolSculpt.

Andrew Kaufman, MD
Los Angeles Dermatologic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

Cool Sculpting

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
Yes of course this is confusing.  The harvest of fat to be used later is a different process that freezing your own fat and having your body remove it naturally. 

Freezing fat cells of the inner thigh

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

CoolSculpting has FDA approval for fat reduction since 2010. CoolSculpting freezes the fat cells. Fat cells are more susceptible to damage by freezing than the other cells, (nerve, vessel, bone, etc.), around them. The fat cells die via a process called apoptosis, (programmed cell death). The number of fat cells are therefore reduced. This happens over a period of time, so the body is not overwhelmed with dead fat cells. The body will take these cells up, process them and excrete them, just as any other cell. The remnants are filtered through the liver, and then excreted eventually via stool. CoolSculpting now has an applicator for thighs.  CoolSculpting had been used in this area with good results. See an experienced CoolSculpting practice, they will determine if you are a candidate.  Best to see a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon.  They will be able to tell you of the different options, (CoolSculpting, Liposuction, Direct excision, etc.).


Jeffrey J. Roth, MD, FACS
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Coolsculpting elimination of fat cells

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
Coolsculpting uses a scientific process called cryolipolysis to have a systematic elimination of the fat cells (apoptosis).

Kris M. Reddy, MD, FACS
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 56 reviews

Freezing Fat and Inner Thighs

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Cool Sculpting is a great tool for freezing your fat and reducing both the inner and outer thighs. Cool Sculpting freezes the fat in a given area and then your body naturally dissolves these fat cells.  Cool Sculpting has two new adaptors - the coolfit for the inner thighs - and coolsmooth for the outer thighs.  For the best results please find a board certified dermatologist with a lot of experience with Cool Sculpting.

Fat freezing

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
Freezing the fat cells essentially kills them.  The research has shown that the fat cells die off in a process termed apoptosis. 

Shim Ching, MD
Honolulu Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

Permanent Fat Removal

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
The treated fat cells are removed through a natural cell death (Apoptosis) and then processed as waste with results seen as early as 3 weeks. The skin and surrounding tissue remain safe and intact with no rise in triglycerides or cholesterol levels in the body, which makes Coolsculpting a healthy alternative for body contouring. Since the numbers of fat cells in the body are set after adolescence, you will not regenerate new fat cells. Making the results lasting and easier to maintain!

Missy Clifton, MD
Bentonville Dermatologist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.