Certain areas of the body, like the “love handles”, outer thighs, belly “pooch” and under the chin are all common problem areas for stubborn fat to persist, despite a dedicated diet and exercise regimen. It can be frustrating to keep trying to resolve these problem areas using traditional methods, which is why many people turn to cosmetic procedures like liposuction for effective removal of unwanted fat. However, liposuction is a surgical procedure that involves downtime, discomfort, and an invasive process that doesn’t fit into many lifestyles. Luckily, new technology is emerging all the time to make body contouring even safer, gentler, and non-invasive. The latest fat reduction treatment is CoolSculpting®, a totally non-invasive procedure for resolving stubborn fat. And with the recent addition of a smaller applicator, the CoolMini®, hard to treat areas and bulges, such as under the chin and under the arm can be treated effectively as well.
CoolSculpting® is an FDA approved treatment that works without surgery, needles, or anesthesia. The procedure cools and freezes unwanted fat—without damaging surrounding tissues. Once the fat has been frozen and crystallized from the treatment, the body will slowly break down the unwanted cells and dispose of them, resulting in gradual fat loss following the treatment. Most patients start to see results within about three weeks, with final results becoming apparent within 1-3 months after treatment. Many people are satisfied with the results of just 1-3 CoolSculpting® sessions, as the treatment is an efficient method of fat removal. By reducing isolated pockets of fat, patients enjoy subtle, natural-looking enhancement to body contours. The results of CoolSculpting® are best enhanced with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
If you are a prospective CoolSculpting® patient, then your first step is to come in for a consultation with one of our skilled plastic surgeons in Atlanta, Georgia. Our surgeons will walk you through your choices for improving problem areas and help you assess whether or not CoolSculpting® is a good fit for you and your goals. During your consultation, you will have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the treatments, side effects, and results.
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Good candidates for CoolSculpting® are people with isolated areas of stubborn fat, which do not respond to diet and exercise. Prospective patients must have realistic expectations for the procedure, and realize the limitations of CoolSculpting®. The process is gradual, and patients will need to be prepared to wait for results from this gentle procedure.
While CoolSculpting® is very safe and appealing for many patients, especially for those with busy lifestyles, not everyone is a good candidate for the procedure. CoolSculpting® produces effective, but subtle results, and is not ideal for larger amounts of fat. For people with larger problem areas, CoolSculpting® may yield disappointing results, and liposuction may be a better option. CoolSculpting® is also not a treatment for obesity or excess skin, which must be addressed using different methods.
Your treatment plan will depend on the areas you would like address. Each area will take about an hour per treatment to complete. A specialized applicator will suction the tissue into a vacuum cup, where it will be slowly chilled over the course of the hour. Most patients experience little to no discomfort during this process, and often choose to read or work during the treatment. The tissues become numb soon after the procedures begin.
Because the CoolSculpting® procedure is completely non-invasive, patients can return to normal activities immediately following treatment. Some people even choose to return to work the same day, with no activity restrictions or significant discomfort. There may be some minor redness, swelling, tenderness or bruising, but these side effects should subside quickly.
Is CoolSculpting® better than liposuction?
It is difficult to compare liposuction and CoolSculpting®, because although they both treat unwanted fat, each works best for patients with different concerns. CoolSculpting® is a great option for people with good skin elasticity and minor problem areas, while liposuction is more suitable for patients who want to experience more dramatic results, who have multiple areas to treat, or who desire other surgical procedures, such as a tummy tuck. CoolSculpting® is less invasive than liposuction, but the results will be too subtle for some patients seeking fat reduction.
How many treatments will I need?
Because CoolSculpting® uses the body’s own mechanisms to break down and dispose of the unwanted fat once it has been destroyed by the cooling process, the results of CoolSculpting® appear gradually, in a similar way weight loss from regular exercise does. Because each patient’s needs are different, it’s hard to say how many treatments you will need to see the results you want. However, most people need between one and three treatments for satisfactory results.
Will the fat ever come back?
Just like other cosmetic procedures for fat reduction, fat cells destroyed during CoolSculpting® treatments are gone for good. However, it is still possible to gain weight, even in the treated areas. Remaining fat cells can still expand if the results are not maintained. Patients are encouraged to continue leading a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise following the procedure to help ensure that results are maintained.
Where does the fat go?
Our bodies are constantly recycling our tissues, and CoolSculpting® works along similar lines. Once the fat cells have been damaged by freezing, the body’s normal processes move to remove the cellular components. This process takes some time, which is why patients see the most dramatic results from each treatment appear after a month or two, providing subtle, natural results gradually.
Are there any risks or side effects to CoolSculpting®?
CoolSculpting® risks are quite minimal. The cooling of the tissues is controlled, resulting in no damage to the surrounding areas, and there are none of the risks associated with surgery or injections. However, some people with rare medical conditions (cryoglobulinemia or paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria) should not undergo the treatment, as the treatment could prove dangerous.
Common CoolSculpting® side effects are temporary and generally mild. These may include swelling, redness, bruising, numbness, tingling, pain, or firmness in the treated areas. Common side effects rarely interfere with patients’ everyday activities.
Is the CoolSculpting® treatment uncomfortable?
One of the best aspects of CoolSculpting® treatments is that you will be fully awake and should be experiencing very little discomfort during the process. Many patients find the treatment so relaxing that they are able to read, nap, or work on a laptop during each session. Some people find the pressure, suction and chilling sensation to be uncomfortable in the first few minutes after application, but very few patients find they experience pain or discomfort during or after the procedure.
Who should perform my CoolSculpting® treatment?
Before undergoing any cosmetic procedure, a trained plastic surgeon, like our Emory Aesthetic experts, should evaluate you and help determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure. Once approved by the doctor, our skilled team of medical aestheticians will perform the treatment. It takes skill to produce consistent, good results for patients, no matter what the treatment. By choosing a skilled team of providers, you are setting yourself up for success.
How long should I wait between treatments?
Because some people are happy with the results of just one treatment, it is best to schedule your sessions at least a few months apart, to give each treatment time to work. CoolSculpting® before and after photos show just how much of a difference a few months can make, so be patient when scheduling your treatments. You don’t want to end up paying for treatments you don’t need, but at the same time you need to be realistic and be prepared to undergo several treatments to get the result you want.
How many CoolSculpting® treatments are safe?
CoolSculpting® is very safe, and many patients have up to three treatments to see their desired results. However, it is important to be realistic and understand that while more treatments may be safe, they may not provide sufficient results to be worth the extra time and expense. You may have as many treatments as you want, provided your doctor thinks it is safe, but beware of seeking perfection with extra treatments—CoolSculpting® produces subtle body contouring, not dramatic results.