Does fat freezing yield results similar to liposuction?

August 12, 2013

You can freeze your fat cells safely
You can freeze your fat cells safely

The short answer is yes, but to get comparable results, it takes careful treatment planning, a skilled practitioner and multiple treatment cycles. Cryolipolysis (fat freezing), marketed as CoolSculpting, is a treatment that originated after researchers fully understood what happens when humans get frostbite: fat cells freeze before skin freezes. Cryolipolysis works like frostbite; it freezes fat, leaving the overlying skin intact. A section of your skin is inserted into a freezing device for about an hour, resulting in the disappearance of some fat cells.


The first cryolipolysis device was approved in 2010.

Recently, a group of Southern California plastic surgeons did a large study to evaluate treatment effectiveness and popularity. The results, published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, are titled "Broad Overview of a Clinical and Commercial Experience with CoolSculpting."

The study found:

• Cryolipolysis is effective in reducing subcutaneous (just beneath the skin) fat volume.

• There were few adverse events - three cases of mild or moderate pain/neuralgia were noted in the retrospective chart review, all of which rapidly resolved.

• The popularity of the procedure grew dramatically over the two years studied, with 823 percent more treatment cycles delivered in 2012 than in 2010 and a growing demand for the procedure among men.

Five hundred and twenty eight patients were treated with CoolSculpting in the lower abdomen, upper abdomen, left or right flank, inner thigh, back and outer thigh. According to the leading study researcher, "With careful treatment planning, proper applicator placement, and multiple treatment cycles, cryolipolysis can produce results comparable to those of liposuction."

During a CoolSculpting session, a molded cup is placed over the stomach, love handles or other fleshy accessible area and heavy-duty suction pulls the fat bulge inside CoolSculpting paddles where it is chilled.

Some of the fat cells in the cooled area are destroyed and ultimately disposed of by the liver. As with the ultrasound devices, there is little risk of skin injury and no change in blood levels of fats. The number of treatments needed vary, according to the amount of excess fat and the skill of the practitioner.

The best patients for CoolSculpting have fat that can be pinched and drawn into the CoolSculpting paddles.
Once the fat is secured inside the CoolSculpting machine, it is cooled down to the point where it is broken down. A session takes less than an hour and no anesthesia is needed. Once an area has been treated the next area can be started.

Results take from two to four months to appear and some people experience redness, mild pain and bruising for a few days afterward. You can generally expect a 20 percent fat reduction but this may take a number of treatments. To find out what this treatment can do for you, contact a board-certified plastic surgeon.


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

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The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

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