September 26, 2015Trends in Technology

Cool Technology Alert: CoolSculpting

CoolSculpting is a newer technology (introduced in the past five years) which freezes the fat cells beneath your skin while keeping the surrounding skin, muscle, and nerve cells healthy and intact – a process called “selective cryolipolysis.”  This radical concept was initially explored by scientists who observed an interesting phenomenon called “popsicle panniculitis” in kids.  Scientists noticed that some children who sucked on lots of ice popsicles actually developed dimpling in their cheeks as a result of permanent death of fat cells exposed to cold temperatures.  Obviously this doesn’t happen in every child who sucks on a popsicle (thank goodness), but there was some perfect combination of just the right temperature, just the right amount of pressure, and just the right duration of time that led to this fat reduction.  This observation led scientists to question whether they could develop a very controlled means of freezing certain unwanted bulges of fat for the purposes to body contouring.  Thus was born the technology surrounding CoolSculpting.  It is completely non-invasive, which means no needles, no cutting, no scarring and very little recovery time.

Generally speaking, the ideal patient for CoolSculpting is someone who is close to their ideal body weight, but has one or more stubborn bulges of fat that just won’t disappear with a healthy diet and regular exercise.  For example, if you just can’t get rid of that extra bulge right under your belly button, that muffin top, or generous love handles, CoolSculpting is perfect for that scenario.

However, I have also recently started to use CoolSculpting on patients who have a substantial amount of weight to lose – upwards of 20 pounds – in order to “jump start” their weight loss plan. My patients tell me that they are extremely motivated by seeing tangible results and feel empowered and ready to work toward losing the rest. My patients and I have been very excited that this strategy is proving to be so effective!

Your Virtual CoolSculpting Appointment

What to Expect: I apply a CoolSculpting handpiece to your skin overlying the “bulge” or “trouble spot” we want to slim down. Ideal areas to treat include love handles, rolls in the belly region, or unwanted fat on your back. Next, I turn on the suction which “sucks” your bulge into the hand-piece. This part of the procedure can be somewhat startling especially for first-timers and for patients for whom we select the largest of all the handpieces (called the 8.0 handpiece). In those cases, patients often use some variation of the phrase “it took my breath away for an instant” to describe the initial moment when the suction is applied. Once you are positioned comfortably in a place you can envision yourself relaxing for the next hour, I turn on the cooling part of the device. The first 10 minutes can be moderately uncomfortable –ranging from a pulling sensation to a slight cramping sensation. The larger the handpiece we use, the more uncomfortable those first 10 minutes can be, but the flip side is that the larger handpieces also remove more fat. I call them “debulking” treatments, because they produce that desired “wow” effect when you button your favorite jeans two months later. After those 10 minutes, the nerves have become numb from the cold, and that’s when most of my patients do work on their blackberries, watch a show on their Ipads, read magazines, or simply fall asleep! My patients describe this part of the procedure, which is the majority of the procedure, as comfortable and completely painless.

When the session is over, I remove the hand-piece and massage the area that I can best describe as having a slushy-like consistency. Once this fat defrosts (generally within five minutes), you can return immediately to your normal activities. One patient I treated went straight to a boot camp class and another went directly to Soul Cycle! Although the downtime is minimal for most, you can experience some moderate bruising in the area treated, and many people feel a bit of numbness or tingling on the skin overlying the fat that was treated for several days or even a few weeks.

Over the next few months, your body slowly and naturally disposes of the damaged fat cells without any spike of cholesterol or unhealthy fats in the bloodstream — this was carefully studied before the device was FDA approved. In patients who maintain a stable diet and exercise program (no crazy binges or weight fluctuations), the results are very long-lasting.

Time-Frame: A session can involve as little as one hour, but most of my patients opt to do between 4 and 6 hours total of CoolSculpting. What does this mean? Each time I place the handpiece on a part of your body and let the fat “freeze” it takes one hour. For each hour of fat freezing, about 22% of your fat cells in that area die. Now, let’s do a demonstration I do with my patients. Grab the bulge you hate the most on your body (for most, it’s the bulge right under your belly button or love handles). Imagine almost a quarter of that fat gone (22%) after a one hour long treatment. Not bad, but now imagine doubling that result by returning for a second hour of treatment in the same exact spot. Go on, grab that fat bulge one more time and now envision almost HALF of it gone. Now those are the results most people are looking for.

Additionally, something exciting is on the horizon! CoolSculpting is in the process of being FDA approved for use on double chins and “turkey necks”. Stay tuned!!