It’s called stubborn fat for a reason. Those areas where fat just seems to accumulate and not budge. You know, the muffin-tops, the love handles, that poochy tummy. Eating right and exercising keeps the weight in check but those bulges hang in there. Now there is an FDA-approved procedure that removes those pesky spots once and for all. The procedure is called Coolsculpting and it means freezing fat.
History of Freezing Fat
As far back as the 1800s frozen fat was observed. Horseback riders who suffered from frozen thighs during extremely cold weather noted the after-effects of bruising and subsequent shrinking of fat. Riding gear was thus designed to protect the thighs from the cold. More recently, children who sucked on popsicles were noted to have dimples in the cheeks caused by frozen fat. The age of purposeful fat freezing began.
Cryogenic lipolysis is a term that means freezing fat. The first research on cryogenic lipolysis done in America was in 2008 at Massachusetts General Hospital by physicians Manstein and Anderson.
In 2009 the first human study on freezing fat was reported in the Aesthetic Plastic Surgery journal by Coleman, et al, in which they showed that cryogenic lipolysis resulted in a 25% reduction in fat without damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
By 2010 the first FDA-approved procedure for freezing fat was approved. Zeltiq Aesthetics Inc. calls this device Coolsculpt. Coolsculpting, meaning “cyro-lipo-lysis”, is a trademarked term coined by Zeltiq.
The patented technology, developed by Harvard scientists, uses a targeted cooling process that kills the fat cells underneath the skin, literally freezing them to the point of elimination. Only fat cells are frozen while healthy skin cells remain, well, healthy. No surgery, no anesthetics, no scarring and no downtime. After the fat cells die they are naturally eliminated from the body.
First the areas to be treated are determined. Then a clinician positions the device on your body and will then draw the bulge up between two cooling panels. The sensation is a firm pull and pressure – enough of a pull to ensure the selected tissue will be cooled most efficiently.
During the first few minutes of treatment there is a feeling of pressure and intense cold. After a short time this settles down and most patients will then nap, read, watch TV or work on their computer. An hour or so later, depending on your needs, you’re done.
Immediately after treatment there is no detectable change in the tissue. The fat cells appear normal and no inflammation is present. The patient notes only a bit of swelling at this point.
After 3-4 days the fat cells begin to burst and cells that fight inflammation start to appear. During this time the patient notes a bit of mild discomfort in the area. This inflammatory phase peaks about 14 days after treatment with an influx of healing and regenerative cells making an appearance.
At this point the body is busy clearing the contents of the dead fat cells by using the natural injury and recovery response. Now the fat cells become irregular shaped and smaller as the body slowly absorbs them.
After about 30 days the inflammatory phase settles down while the fat cell contents remain in the area and are slowly cleared by the ongoing healing process. This continues for about 90 days after which time the reduction in the fat layer is clearly visible. Ongoing fat cell clearance may continue slowly for as long as 4 to 6 months.
The treatment reduces the total fat volume by about 25% with each treatment round. Multiple treatments are used to target multiple areas, and repeat treatments can be done in areas that need more reduction.
Side effects are temporary and can include redness, bruising, swelling, tenderness to the touch, cramping, itching, tingling, and numbness. No changes in blood chemistries are observed after the Coolsculpt procedure due to the very slow reabsorption of the fat cell contents.
Coolsculpting is not designed for weight loss although some weight loss does usually occur. It is really made for people that have certain bulges they would like to get rid of. Patients may return to normal activity after a treatment and results are long lasting since the fat cells are actually eliminated. Even if there is weight gain afterward the treated areas don’t tend to re-accumulate the bulge.
No special supplements or pills are required although we emphasize drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy diet to support a robust immune response. You do not have to adopt new diet and exercise habits, but many patients feel more motivated to take better care of themselves after the CoolSculpting treatment.
If you are interested in Coolsculpting and would like to learn more then plan to attend our free clinical event on Tuesday, February 24th. There will be one-on-one consultations to evaluate whether Coolsculpt is right for you. Call 245-6911 to schedule an appointment.
Body contouring by Coolsculpt… now that’s a cool idea.
Scott Rollins, MD, is Board Certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement for men and women, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other complex medical conditions. He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com) and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (www.bellezzalaser.com). Call (970) 245-6911 for an appointment or more information.