Fat freezing (or cryolipolysis) stems from observation of cold-induced fat necrosis in 1970 when Epstein et al. observed this in infants sucking on icy poles. Further observation revealed that this cold-induced fat necrosis (fat cell death) also occurs in adult patients. Until 2009, fat removal was usually accomplished surgically by abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) or by liposuction. Both methods provide good results, if performed by a highly skilled physician.
Due to these potential unwanted effects, there is a high demand for a non-invasive procedure that also allows for effective fat removal. To overcome these limitation, other non-invasive methods such as laser treatment, radio frequency and ultrasound are also conducted. These methods are used to selectively damage subcutaneous fatty tissue using various forms of energy delivered into the subcutaneous fat. The effectiveness of these types of treatments are debated and most often completely denied. The new strategy emerging since 2009 has been used to selectively damage fat tissue.
Fat freezing (or cryolipolysis) stems from observation of cold-induced fat necrosis in 1970 when Epstein et al. observed this in infants sucking on icy poles. Further observation revealed that this cold-induced fat necrosis (fat cell death) also occurs in adult patients. However, other tissues such as skin, nerves, vessels, and muscles were not affected by this cold.
In 2008, Dr Dieter Manstein and Dr Rox Anderson researched this phenomenon at The Wellman Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and published their data. After performing cold-induced fat necrosis in numerous of experiments on pigs, they introduced a new noninvasive method for fat reduction with freezing, termed cryolipolysis. After 3-4 months, their data showed selective and significant subcutaneous fat damage after exposing -5°C and -8°C for 10 minutes at sites covering 15% of skin area.
In 2009, a cryolipolysis device was invented and was called Coolsculpting and the procedure was approved by EU and followed by FDA in 2010. The TGA first approved the use of the Coolsculpting machine for cryolipolysis in Australia in 2015. Since then fat freezing in Melbourne and around the country has grown in popularity. There are numerous clinics in Melbourne that perform fat freezing as an alternative to other treatments or as an adjunct to existing treatments. It is common for plastic surgeons to use fat freezing after liposuction to smooth out the results or perhaps get rid of the little pockets that remain.
Dieter Manstein and Dr. R. Rox Anderson set out to create a machine which could be used to achieve fat reduction through the use of selective cyolysis. They renamed the fat freezing process ‘CoolSculpting’ which was both consumer and marketing friendly and began clinical trials for the device in 2008.
The science of cryolipolysis, the basis of CoolSculpting, was discovered after children who ate a lot of popsicles formed dimples in their cheeks. This was ultimately the reduction of fat. This happened because fat is more sensitive to temperature than skin, therefore directly affecting the fat and the skin formed to the new contour. Now, we utilize this discovered method as an effective way to remove fat from various regions of the body, such as the flanks, abdomen, arms, thighs, and buttocks, after diet and exercise have been insufficient at removing stubborn fat deposits.
CoolSculpting is not for shedding pounds. This is because muscle weighs more than fat, so it won’t make that huge of a difference to the number on the scale. CoolSculpting can remove up to 25 percent of fat within a treatment area, which is why results are not necessarily seen on the scale.
Because CoolSculpting is a noninvasive fat reduction treatment, the risks are very low in comparison to that of a surgical procedure. And since this treatment utilizes an automated machine, it removes the risk of human error. Rarely, patients have reported that the treated area remained numb for several weeks after the treatment. This causes no real harm to the body; merely an add sensation.
Risks and side effects: Some common side effects of CoolSculpting include:
1. Tugging sensation at the treatment site
During a CoolSculpting procedure, your doctor will place a roll of fat between two cooling panels on the part of your body that’s being treated. This can create a sensation of tugging or pulling that you’ll have to put up with for one to two hours, which is how long the procedure usually takes.
2. Pain, stinging, or aching at the treatment site
Researchers have found that a common side effect of CoolSculpting is pain, stinging, or aching at the treatment site. These sensations typically begin soon after treatment until about two weeks after treatment. The intense cold temperatures that the skin and tissue are exposed to during CoolSculpting may be the cause.
A study from 2015 reviewed the results of people who had collectively done 554 crypolipolysis procedures over one year. The review found that any post-treatment pain usually lasted 3-11 days and went away on its own.
3. Temporary redness, swelling, bruising, and skin sensitivity at the treatment site
Common CoolSculpting side effects include the following, all located where the treatment was done:
These are caused by exposure to cold temperatures. They usually go away on their own after a few weeks. These side effects occur because CoolSculpting affects the skin in a similar manner as frostbite, in this case targeting the fatty tissue just below the skin. However, CoolSculpting is safe and will not give you frostbite.
4. Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia at the treatment site – A very rare but serious side effect of CoolSculpting is paradoxical adipose hyperplasia. It occurs most in men. This means the fat cells in the treatment site grow larger rather than smaller. It’s not fully understood why this occurs. While it’s a cosmetic rather than physically dangerous side effect, paradoxical adipose hyperplasia doesn’t disappear on its own.
Who should avoid CoolSculpting?
CoolSculpting is a safe and effective treatment for reducing body fat in most people. However, there are some people who should not receive this treatment. People with the following conditions should not do CoolSculpting:
cold agglutinin disease
paroxysmal cold hemoglobulinuria
CoolSculpting could cause serious complications for people with these disorders.
Whether or not you have these preexisting conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor before seeking out a plastic or cosmetic surgeon to perform the procedure.
It’s also important to note that CoolSculpting is not a treatment for obesity. Rather, it can help eliminate small amounts of excess fat that doesn’t easily go away with diet and exercise alone.