What is CoolSculpting?

CoolSculpting is a relatively new technique for eliminating body fat without the need for surgical procedures. It was first approved by the FDA in 2010 and is now practiced by many cosmetic surgeons. Here is some more information about CoolSculpting and how it works.

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How does CoolSculpting work?

The idea behind CoolSculpting is to freeze fat cells in the body using dedicated instruments and then massage the treated area to encourage the lymphatic system to naturally eliminate the now-dead cells. This treatment is very localized and is intended for ‘stubborn’ areas where the patient has been struggling to eliminate fat for some time. To date, CoolSculpting has been approved by the FDA for use on the sides, stomach, thighs, chin, chest, buttocks, and upper arms.

A CoolSculpting session lasts for about an hour and requires no anesthetic. The patient will feel a sensation of intense cold to begin with, but this fades quickly as the area becomes numbed by the cold itself. Normally, two or three sessions are needed to see a marked difference in the treated area.

Many patients see CoolSculpting as a better alternative to liposuction because it is a non-surgical procedure that leaves no scarring and doesn’t require long periods of recovery time.

Are there any side effects to CoolSculpting?

Although most patients report no serious side effects from CoolSculpting, there have been rare cases of patients developing something called Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia, or PAH, after undergoing CoolSculpting treatment—such as in the famous case of the former supermodel Linda Evangelista. If you develop this condition, instead of breaking down the targeted fat cells, the freezing treatment will cause them to expand and harden, making the treated area bigger rather than smaller. Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia can be corrected through liposuction and through a surgical procedure known as an abdominoplasty, or ‘tummy tuck’, in cases where the abdomen is affected.

Since CoolSculpting is a relatively new procedure, there has been little research to date about what causes paradoxical adipose hyperplasia. However, there is some evidence that patients might be at higher risk of developing this condition if:

  • they are biologically male, or Assigned Male At Birth (AMAB);
  • they are of Hispanic or Latino origin;
  • they are having CoolSculpting treatment on their abdomen;
  • they have had CoolSculpting treatment in the past;
  • a large handpiece is used during the procedure.

It is also possible that some people may have a genetic predisposition toward developing paradoxical adipose hyperplasia.

How can I make sure that my CoolSculpting procedure is safe?

CoolSculpting services should only be provided by a medical doctor using FDA-approved instruments. CoolSculpting technology is the intellectual property of a company called ZELTIQ, and only their products are licensed by the FDA. Unfortunately, there have been reports of some companies using counterfeit CoolSculpting technology, so you should check with your provider prior to the procedure that the instruments they are going to use are the genuine article.

As with every other medical procedure, your doctor should go through how it’s going to work and any possible side effects beforehand. Don’t be afraid to ask any clarification questions you might have, and if you want to take some extra time to think things over, go for it.

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