What Is CoolSculpting? And Does It Really Work?

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What Is CoolSculpting? And Does It Really Work?

CoolSculpting is the product name for a noninvasive fat-freezing method (or cryolipolysis) approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for eliminating stubborn body fat in certain areas. It works by safely cooling the area and breaking down the fat cells without surgery, needles, or anesthesia.

This article discusses CoolSculpting’s safety and effectiveness, as well as alternative options for fat reduction.

What Is the CoolSculpting Procedure Like?
CoolSculpting is a noninvasive fat removal procedure that doesn’t involve incisions or any downtime after the treatment.

A healthcare provider will assess the treatment area, including a pinchable bulge of fat located on one or more of the following FDA-approved regions: abdomen, thighs, back, arms, flanks (or “love handles”), or under the chin.

Then, a gel pad is placed on the skin for protection before the CoolSculpting device applicator is applied to the area. The applicator then sucks or vacuums the fat bulge into an opening in the applicator, using a controlled cooling function to kill off the fat cells.


Some patients report the area feeling slightly uncomfortable at first due to the cold temperatures and suctioning. But after a few minutes, the site should feel numb or normal.
How Long Is the Procedure?
Most treatment sessions last less than an hour per area, so many people use their phones, read, watch TV, or relax while the CoolSculpting device is applied. When done, the applicator is removed, and the treated area will be lightly massaged for a few minutes to help improve results.
Depending on the target area and a patient’s goals, some people may require up to three sessions to see full results.2 Repeat treatment sessions can be scheduled several weeks apart.

Who Is CoolSculpting For?
Studies show that CoolSculpting is safe for all skin types and safe for repeat treatments.
The ideal candidates for CoolSculpting are those who want to reduce a bulge of fat in one of the approved treatment areas that haven’t been resolved with exercise or diet modifications. Additionally, they should be open to maintaining the achieved results with an active lifestyle.

CoolSculpting is not meant for people with a cold sensitivity disorder, such as:

Cryoglobulinemia: Abnormal proteins in the blood that thicken in cold temperatures
Cold urticaria: An immune response (rash, hives) to cold temperatures
Raynaud’s syndrome: When fingers and toes turn blue and/or white when exposed to cold
Poor blood circulation in the treatment area
How Long Does CoolSculpting Last?
CoolSculpting permanently damages existing fat cells so that they won’t grow back. But it’s important to note that removing existing fat cells doesn’t mean fat cells in other areas won’t grow. Fat cells are a preset number at birth. Once removed, they do not come back. Existing cells will grow instead.

Research estimates that results last up to nine years after treatment, with the potential to maintain the effects indefinitely with an active lifestyle (regular exercise and a healthy diet).

The Risks of CoolSculpting
CoolSculpting is considered by experts to be safe and effective. It’s a noninvasive procedure, so no surgery, needles, anesthesia, or medications are required. The risk for potential side effects or complications with CoolSculpting is much lower than with surgical procedures like liposuction.

Commonly reported side effects include:

A lack of sensation in the treated area
Pain or discomfort
Swelling
Bruising
Sensitivity
Redness or discoloration
Although rare, there could be a risk of the following complications:1

Numbness that may last for weeks
Small, temporary nodules (or lumps) that can be felt in the treatment area
Freeze burns on the skin
Nerve damage that may temporarily change the lip or tongue position, if used under the chin area
A temporary sensation of fullness in the back of the throat, if used under the chin area
CoolSculpting and Paradoxical Fat Hyperplasia (PAH)
One rarely reported complication of CoolSculpting is what’s known as paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH).

With PAH, fat cells grow instead of diminishing in the treatment area. It can appear like a bulge of firm or hardened fatty tissue in the rectangular shape of the applicator.

One study estimates that PAH happens in 0.05% to 0.39% of cases. It may be more common with older versions of the applicator and in certain male patients.PAH can be treated with surgical liposuction.
Does CoolSculpting Really Work?
Research shows that CoolSculpting is a safe and effective procedure for nonsurgical fat reduction and is particularly useful for modest spot reduction in some fat regions. Specifically, studies have found:3
Fat reduction of up to 25% in the treated area
Improvements reported in 86% of treated patients
More fat reduction than ultrasound therapies
A 73% patient satisfaction rate
More research is underway to determine which areas of the body are the most successfully treated with CoolSculpting and whether this technique can be used in areas previously treated with liposuction.

How Much Does CoolSculpting Cost?
The cost of CoolSculpting depends on the size of the treatment area. It’s not considered a medically necessary procedure, so it’s not covered by health insurance.

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