Cryolipolysis treatments, also known as CoolSculpting, freeze and crystallize fat cells without damaging the surrounding skin and muscle tissue. The frozen cells die and are processed naturally by the body, so they do not reappear.

Patients who have tried diet and exercise to reduce stubborn localized fat bulges may be good candidates for cryolipolysis treatment. This nonsurgical procedure can permanently reduce fat bulges without surgery.

What is Cryolipolysis?

Cryolipolysis, which means “cold fat cell destruction,” is a noninvasive procedure to reduce unwanted fat pockets. The FDA approved fat freezing in 2010 under the name CoolSculpting and is considered safe. It has cryolipolysis treatment few side effects, the most common of which is decreased sensation in the area treated.

During the procedure, your doctor places an applicator with paddles on your skin. The applicator cools the targeted area for 35 minutes, during which the damaged cells die. Over the next few months, your immune system clears away the dead cells.

Fat tissue makes up the majority of your body’s weight, but it can be hard to get rid of. Cryolipolysis targets subcutaneous fat, which is present as a layer beneath your skin. This type of fat can increase your risk for conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

The creators of cryolipolysis were inspired by what happens when kids eat popsicles. They noticed that a red, indurated nodule would appear in the cheeks of children who had been sucking on their popsicles for several minutes. This phenomenon, called cold-induced panniculitis, led the cofounders of the treatment to believe that the fat in a fatty bulge was more sensitive than the overlying skin.

How Does Cryolipolysis Work?

Cryolipolysis (also called CoolSculpting) involves freezing and destroying fat cells, which are then naturally removed by the body. The procedure is ideal for reducing localized fat deposits that are resistant to diet and exercise. It can also reduce the build-up of visceral fat around your internal organs, which increases the risk of serious health problems.

During cryolipolysis, the fat-rich cells freeze at a lower temperature than the surrounding skin. This is what allows the technique to treat only the fat layer without damaging the surrounding skin tissue. The process is not safe for patients with certain conditions, including Raynaud’s disease or cold-related diseases such as cryoglobulinemia or cold urticaris.

While the FDA has approved cryolipolysis as a safe treatment, the long-term effectiveness of this treatment is still unknown. Some people develop a condition called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH), which occurs when the fat cells that were killed by cryolipolysis start growing again. This is why it’s important to only undergo this treatment under the supervision of an experienced physician. If you’re considering this procedure, it is best to weigh the pros and cons of PAH with the benefits of having a slimmer figure.

What Are the Side Effects of Cryolipolysis?

During the treatment, you will feel pressure and intense cold that quickly dissipates. Most patients read, watch videos, work on their laptop or take a nap during the procedure. The results appear gradually over four to six months as injured fat cells are naturally eliminated by the body.

Cryolipolysis does not damage nerve fibers, blood vessels or skin in the treated area. There are no activity restrictions after treatment and you can return to your normal routine immediately.

There are some side effects from cryolipolysis that should be discussed with your plastic surgeon, including a feeling of soreness in the treatment area, similar to that felt after exercise, or a temporary change in skin color (hyperpigmentation). Some patients may experience paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, which occurs when the number and size of fat cells increase at the treatment site. This happens less than 1% of the time, and it usually resolves on its own within a year.

The FDA has cleared cryolipolysis to reduce localized fat deposits and bulges in the abdomen, flank (love handles) and thighs. However, the procedure is not a weight loss solution and it is not recommended for people who are obese.

How Long Will Cryolipolysis Take to Work?

Cryolipolysis, also known as CoolSculpting, is a noninvasive procedure designed to reduce localized fat deposits or bulges that do not respond to diet and exercise. The FDA-approved treatment targets the chin, upper arms, inner and outer thighs, abdomen, hip/flank (“love handles”), and brassiere rolls (the area under the breasts).

A vacuum applicator is placed over the targeted area to bring it into contact with cooling panels. During the procedure, the targeted area may feel cold for several minutes as the cold temperature kills fat cells while protecting surrounding skin and tissue.

Once the damaged fat cells die, they are eliminated naturally by the body. Patients should expect to see results over 4 to 6 months as the fatty bulge gradually shrinks.

Although rare, less than one percent of patients experience paradoxical fat hyperplasia, which is a sudden increase in the size of fat cells at the treated area. This side effect is more likely in men and those of Hispanic descent. In addition, those with preexisting autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or severe varicose veins should not undergo cryolipolysis.

Who is a Good Candidate for Cryolipolysis?

If you have localized pockets of fat that persist despite a healthy diet and exercise regimen, CoolSculpting may be the treatment for you. This noninvasive, FDA-approved procedure can help you reduce your fat levels by up to 20-25% in your target area. The ideal candidate for cryolipolysis is a healthy adult with normal kidney function. However, this treatment is not for you if you have neurological or skeletal issues. You should also not be pregnant or have an open wound in the cryolipolysis treatment target area. One infrequent side effect of the treatment is paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, which occurs when fat cells at the treated site grow larger rather than smaller.

Cryolipolysis uses freezing temperatures to destroy unwanted fat cells without damaging the skin or tissue around them. This procedure is safe, effective, and permanent. It is a great alternative to invasive, surgical procedures and is very popular among people who want to eliminate stubborn fat cells.

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