Here’s One Way to Literally Freeze Your ‘Muffin Top’ Off
Under the heading of “Things That Sound Too Good to Be True,” CoolSculpting, at first glance, might top the list. It’s a non-invasive treatment that uses a vacuum applicator (essentially a suction device) along with intense cooling to target the area of excess fat. We scored the scoop from board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Law on why this procedure is the real deal. He shares everything we need to know from how many sessions of treatment are required, to how it actually kills off fat cells, and what kinds of results you can expect.
“The CoolSculpting platform provides focused cooling of the treatment area, which induces changes in the fat cells ultimately resulting in their destruction and elimination from the body,” explains Dr. Law. This treatment affects fatty tissue only; other non-fat cells in the treatment area (skin cells, blood vessels, etc.) are not affected. Over the next three months, the damaged fat cells are gradually cleared from the body by the immune and lymphatic systems. As the fat cells degrade and are eliminated, the soft tissue contour in the treatment area improves.
Dr. Law explains the advantage of CoolSculpting is that it is non-invasive and minimally traumatic. It does not produce the soft tissue trauma that can be created by a liposuction procedure, and does not utilize more aggressive forms of energy application such as ultrasonic liposuction, which explodes fat cells. Because the application of focused cooling to destroy fat cells, sometimes referred to as ‘cryolipolysis’, is not traumatic to the surrounding non-fat tissues, the treatment is typically not associated with significant soft tissue swelling or bruising and there is no associated “down time.”
In the first few days following the CoolSculpting treatment, patients may experience tenderness with mild swelling, as well as transient numbness in the treatment area. Occasionally, patients will experience mild bruising as well. These side effects can range from barely noticeable to uncomfortable. Most patients’ symptoms are adequately controlled by over-the-counter oral anti-inflammatory medications, such as Motrin or Naprosyn. “For patients with significant discomfort, we will on occasion prescribe Neurontin, a medication that stabilizes nerve cell membranes and which will often reduce symptoms of discomfort. A compression binder can also limit post-treatment swelling and help accelerate the clearance of degenerating fat cells. In most cases, these minor potential side effects resolve within one to two weeks,” explains Dr. Law.
CoolSculpting currently treats the following areas: lower abdomen, upper abdomen, flanks (“muffin top”), lower back, bra roll, upper arms and inner thighs. “Some practices may use the CoolSculpting applicator on other treatment areas; however, our preference is to be conservative with treatment indications to ensure that we get the most ideal and most consistent results,” notes Dr. Law. “Every patient’s body is different, and CoolSculpting is not the ideal treatment for every area of excess fat.” A licensed CoolSculpting provider will assess each patient’s concerns individually to determine if CoolSculpting is an appropriate treatment for them. If it will likely create a noticeable improvement in body contour, the provider will compose a treatment plan and review the treatment protocol and possible side effects with each patient.
The price of CoolSculpting will vary depending on each patient’s individual treatment needs. The total cost of CoolSculpting treatment is primarily driven by the style and number of applicators required to produce the desired contour improvement. The average cost for one treatment session is $1,500.
The number of treatment sessions required varies. Since the improvements in body contour seen with CoolSculpting rely on a thermally-induced fat cell injury and the gradual elimination of the injured cells from the treatment area, patients with a larger volume of excess fat and/or higher density of fatty tissue may require more than one session to achieve their desired outcome.
Dr. Law describes the ideal CoolSculpting candidate as someone who is at or near their ideal body weight with small to moderate bulges of extra fat in a particular area or areas. A healthy patient with well-defined pockets of stubborn fat will generally see the best results from CoolSculpting treatment. A patient who is generally overweight will in most cases not see significant results, or will require multiple treatments to achieve reduction.
He cautions CoolSculpting is absolutely not intended to be a weight loss treatment. It is a treatment designed specifically for improvement of body contour, and in many cases patients do notice improved clothing fit and a reduction in the measurement of their waist, hip, upper arm and/or thigh circumference.
CoolSculpting is designed to create a permanent enhancement in the body contour. The body’s fat cell membranes and fat cell contents that have been treated by CoolSculpting are gone forever and are not coming back. Each treatment eliminates an average of 30% of the fat cells in the treatment area, so the ability of that localized area to store fat has been permanently reduced. The remaining fat cells still have the ability to add fat content and expand in size, or lose fat content and shrink in size. Patients who maintain their body weight should expect a permanent contour improvement in areas treated with CoolSculpting.
It has been noted that patients who gain weight after CoolSculpting may find that the treated area tends to resist expansion as body weight goes up, and does not become as much of a “bulge” as it would have prior to treatment.
The difference between CoolSculpting and liposuction is that liposuction can treat a large area or multiple areas at one time and take as much or as little fat in different areas as necessary to achieve a result that is carefully sculpted and quite dramatic. CoolSculpting is ideal for treating a specific area with only minor bulges.
If you are considering either option, I’d advise seeking consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon who can recommend the best option for you.
To find one in your area, use this Find A Surgeon search tool.