I Have Heard About Cryolipolysis Instead of Having a Regular Surgery, What Is This?

I Have Heard About Cryolipolysis Instead of Having a Regular Surgery, What Is This?

Doctor Answers 14

Cryolipolysis as an option

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I do think that cryolipolysis is somewhat effective although perhaps not as definitive and easy to control as traditional liposuction.  I do not offer it in my clinic and the research is still minimal on it.  I have had patients come to our clinic complaining of areas of sharp demarcation aftre having it done.  That means you can see an impression in the skin where it was applied versus where it was not.  The patient then ends up having our radiofrequency device used to "feather" these edges out.  And, I understand that it isn't cheap and that liposuction can be a close comparison in price.  Cryolipolysis may be an option for someone with minimal areas of excess fat who really wants to avoid traditional liposuction for personal or health reasons.

Cryolipolysis vs. liposuction

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Thank you for your question.  Cryolipolysis (commercially most commonly known as "Coolsculpting") offers the promise of "freezing away" fat without surgery or downtime.  In my experience, results are often disappointing.  Some patients see a little bit of a result, some of the time.  Many see no appreciable result whatsoever.  Positive outcomes, when the do occur, only become evident several months post-procedure.  Post-procedure discomfort is fairly significant, and cost is often in the several thousand dollar range.  Skillfully performed liposuction, on the other hand, is an extremely effective and proven body-sculpting tool.  Up to 5 liters of fat can be directly removed in a single trip to the OR, from exactly targeted problem areas.  Recovery is not difficult, with many patients returning to work within a few days of surgery.  Results are reliable and dramatic.  And cost is usually quite reasonable.

Liposuction is the best choice

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Alternatives to liposuction are all associated with limitations in how effectively they can remove fat, which is the ultimate goal.  Despite the fact that liposuction is surgery, it is predictable, safe, and much more effective than cryolipolysis.

CoolSculpting - What is Is & What it Does

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When patients undergo coolsculpting treatments the fat cells are actually frozen. This results in fat cell death by the process of cryolipolysis. Coolsculpting represents a significant advance in the treatment of problem fat collections. The technique has been clinically proven and has FDA approval.

The procedure involves placing an applicator over the involved area. Suction is then applied which draws the soft tissue into the device where it’s held in place. The skin and fat are then cooled in a controlled manner. Upon completion of treatment, the involved area is gently massaged to smooth contour irregularities that have been created by the device.

When single anatomic areas are treated, the procedure typically lasts about an hour. Depending on the magnitude of the problem, multiple treatments may be necessary. Commonly treated areas include the abdomen, flanks, hips, bra strap area, inner thighs, outer thighs, saddles bags, and banana rolls.

In the vast majority of patients who undergo coolsculpting the results are excellent. The procedure is very safe and there appears to be no long term problems associated with the procedure.

Unfortunately the procedure isn’t for everyone. Patients with large amounts of fat or loose skin may need more aggressive procedures. In this group, liposuction or skin resections may be more appropriate. It’s important to remember that the best results occur when there’s appropriate patient selection and expectations are realistic. 

CoolSculpting as a Liposuction Alternative

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Zeltiq is a non-invasive procedure that gently and effectively removes fat from targeted areas of the body that have not responded to traditional diet and exercise. Patients can benefit from noticeable yet natural-looking results in their problem areas, providing an overall smoother body contour. CoolSculpting is most effective in removing fat from the abdomen, love handles (flanks) and back.

The results of the CoolSculpting procedure are achieved using the advanced Cryolipolysis™ technology, which cools the targeted tissue to break down the fat cells for easy removal, without any harm to the surrounding tissue. Fat cells have been proven to be more vulnerable to cold than the surrounding tissue. This stimulates a natural fat removal process that continues for several months after the procedure.

The CoolSculpting fat reduction procedure is currently approved for use in the United States, Canada, Europe and other international markets. It has recently been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The system has been approved by the FDA as an effective device for reducing fat in the areas of the flanks, or love handles. It has additionally been found to be helpful in re-contouring other areas such as the abdomen, thighs, and back. CoolSculpting has been safely used across the world for many years.
CoolSculpting is considered safe and effective for most patients seeking fat removal from targeted areas such as the abdomen, love handles and back. Since CoolSculpting is not a weight loss solution, patients should be generally in the range of an appropriate weight for their height.

Usual candidates for CoolSculpting are relatively fit, with one or more areas of stubborn fat that does not respond to diet or exercise. Appropriate patients are often active men and women who wish to see some improvement of the bulge above their pants or tights. Many CoolSculpting patients have previously entertained localized liposuction but found that alternative to be too costly or associated with too much recovery time. Because CoolSculpting has no need for compression garments or time away from work or the gym, it is an ideal alternative for the active lifestyle.

CoolSculpting is not designed to remove large volumes of fat like conventional liposuction procedures. CoolSculpting is considered a less invasive alternative for patients with modest-sized fat bulges. 
As a completely non-invasive procedure, CoolSculpting offers patients many benefits over other fat reduction procedures. Some of these benefits include:

No downtime
No need for anesthesia
Minimal to no discomfort
No incisions
During the procedure, most patients remain completely comfortable and can read, listen to music and simply relax. At Montecito Plastic Surgery, patients are supplied with an iPad and a selection of movies and books to enjoy while they relax during their treatment.

Patients are able to return to work and resume other regular activities the very same day. There are usually no restrictions on returning to your work-out or athletic activity, be it yoga, running, weight lifting, cycling, swimming, or surfing. This ability to improve isolated fat bulges in the physically active and working professional population is one of the most exciting aspects to the arrival of CoolSculpting.
The CoolSculpting procedure involves the use of an applicator that cools the fat cells in the targeted area of your body for a simple, natural fat removal process. A gel pad is applied to the area to be treated, and then an applicator cup is attached to deliver a gentle vacuum pressure that draws tissue between the cooling panels.

The treated fat cells are removed though natural metabolic processes within the body, similar to the way fat from food is removed. This allows for a gradual reduction in fat from targeted areas to create a slimmer, more defined appearance. The CoolSculpting procedure usually takes two or more hours to perform, depending on the size of the area being treated.

The results of the Zeltiq procedure are usually visible two to four months after treatment. Although these results are not as rapid as those achieved through liposuction, patients undergoing CoolSculpting can avoid the pain, risks and lengthy recovery times associated with these more invasive procedures. Visible results without the down-time of surgery is what sets this technology apart.

The Minimal Risks of CoolSculpting:

Because of its noninvasive nature, CoolSculpting has considerably fewer risks than other fat reduction procedures. CoolSculpting is considered safe for most patients, although
there are certain risks associated with any kind of treatment. Following Zeltiq, most patients report minimal discomfort. Some bruising can occur, and the feeling of numbness and “pins-and-needles” has been experienced by some patients. These feelings resolve in a matter of days, with no medium or long-term changes to be expected. In comparison, liposuction patients often experience numbness and “burning” sensations that similarly resolve, though often over a longer period of time.

CoolSculpting, Zeltiq Cryolipolysis what is it?

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CoolSculpting is the safe, non-invasive way to reduce fat in common trouble areas that tend to be diet and excercise resitant. Developed by Harvard scientists, the precisely controlled, FDA-cleared, patented procedure uses a cooling technology that targets subcutaneous fat cells by freezing them to the point of crystallization. Once crystallized, the cells are then eliminated from the body through the lymphatic system in a natural process. There is no damage to healthy tissue or skin cells. Also, because the procedure is non-invasive, there is no need for needles or anesthesia. Patients typically read, work on their laptops, listen to music, or relax during the procedure. Each session lasts one hour and therefore can easily be fit into a lunch break. After treatment, patients typically find it easy to return to everyday activities.

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 123 reviews

I Have Heard About Cryolipolysis Instead of Having a Regular Surgery, What Is This?

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It is the freezing of fat cells to cause apoptosis or cell death and then the body disposes of the cell remnants over time. The FDA approved machine is called CoolSculpting by the company Zeltiq.

Julio Garcia, MD
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 27 reviews


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Freesing the fat or cryolipolysis is one method for non-invasive fat removal.  The studies suggest that it improves the area by about 20%, it is not an alternative to a good liposuction procedure but may be consider for small areas.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews


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Cryolipolysis, literally the breaking up of fat by freezing is one of several techniques aimed at destroying fat cells without surgery (liposuction). By rapidly cooling an area rich in fat cells, the water inside the fat cells is frozen  destroying the cells from the inside. However this requires several treatments and dies not approach the accuracy and capability of  liposuction. It is best used in people who absolutely would not  consider liposuction. 

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

Cryo for fat reduction is only one nonsurgical alternative

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There are a couple of nonsurgical options for reduction of localized fat including cryolipolysis and the newer option of Liposonix which uses focused ultrasound. Liposuction is still the "gold standard" but as you correctly point out it is surgery, despite marketing hype that makes it sound minimally invasive. The advantage of Liposonix is that it can be precisely targeted into a specific layer of fat. Both Liposonix and cryo are completely noninvasive.

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 59 reviews

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.