It is not very often that a new medical technology lives up to its initial launch hype. That said, the technology of ‘CoolSculpting®’, or ‘cryolipolysis’, is proving itself to be one of the first weight loss techniques that is truly noninvasive and literally could be achieved, “over the lunch hour”. While not assumed to replace conventional liposuction, it is uniquely suited for fine tuning sculpting and reduction of fatty areas around the waist, thighs, hips, and vulnerable areas that generally are unresponsive to exercise and diet. CoolSculpting® does not require the use of injections, needles, cannulas, or other invasive procedures. The concept came from the observation of a medical condition called ‘popsicle panniculitis’, which is a dermatologic condition that is observed in young children after sucking on a popsicle and then noticing some diminution of subcutaneous fat in the cheek area.
This is thought to occur because the temperatures from the popsicle are low enough to actually impair fat metabolism, and cause disruption(lysis) of the fat cells. The low temperature does not damage the surrounding skin. Once the fat cells are damaged or lysed, they are metabolized by the body for fuel. Thus reducing the overall fat content but yet leaving the skin unaffected. This observation led to studies by Dr. Dieter Manstein, M.D., Ph.D., and Dr. Rox Anderson, M.D. at the Wellman Center at Mass General Hospital. Early experiments were done on animals, and data was published in 2008. Eventually, in September 2010, the FDA approved the first cryolipolysis medical device marketed by Zeltiq Aesthetics in Pleasanton, California. The CoolSculpt® device is fairly simple and straightforward to use. A gel pad, which protects the skin, is applied and a mild suction with a thermal effect will slowly cool the fat cells below the skin. The cooling process causes the cells to undergo lipolysis, or to essentially dissolve. As the fat cells gradually dissolve, a substantial amount of fat loss can occur from the treated area. On average, about a 25% reduction in fat can occur at any given area treated according to animal and human studies. With advancing technology, other specialized attachments to treat areas in the back and inner thighs, lateral thighs, are being developed.
Like other types of fat loss techniques, including laser liposuction, the results are gradual over time. Most people will notice an observed difference in 2-3 weeks, however it takes 2-3 months to start to begin to see a maximal effect. Additionally the firming process will often continue for several months. The treatments take generally less than one hour, and there is minimal discomfort and no required anesthesia. It is particularly optimal for areas of fine tuning, or stubborn packets of fat, that seem to persistently hang on no matter what efforts are put forth to diminish them.
Potential complications are exceedingly rare, and studies have shown no observed long-term risks. There can sometimes be minimal nerve irritation. Occasionally, as the procedure is completed, there can be some transitional pain. While nothing will replace diet and exercise as a primary therapy, this is an excellent, noninvasive, therapy that can target problem areas that are not amenable to other treatments. It also would be an optimal technique compatible with other adjunctive therapies including HCG, optimization of hormone balance, dietary management, avoidance of food allergy, and optimization of metabolic efficiency.
– Dr. Guyer