Banish the Bulge
Not loving your love handles? Coolsculpting® may be for you.
Back in post-baby shape except for the belly bulge? Feeling and looking fit, except for one or two spots that are out of contour no matter how much you diet and exercise? Cut out muffins, but still have the muffin top? Not loving your love handles? CoolSculpting® may be your solution.
CoolSculpting® is an innovative, non-surgical way to reduce fat by freezing fat cells so they die and are then naturally expelled from your body. The FDA approved this technology in 2010, according to manufacturer Zeltiq Aesthetics Inc., in Pleasanton, Calif. More than 70,000 treatment cycles were performed from 2005 to 2010 with no reports of long-term complications, Zeltiq says. Worldwide, more than 500,000 treatment cycles have been performed, the company says.
Patients like CoolSculpting® because there’s no scarring, no downtime and none of the risks of surgery, says plastic surgeon Dr. Ben Hugo in Virginia Beach. Hugo’s practice has performed more than 1,000 treatments since September 2010. Cost is $500–$750 per treated area; patients may need more than one area treated, Hugo says.
No needles or anesthesia are used. A non-invasive applicator draws the fat tissue into a vacuum cup and delivers controlled cooling for one hour using two cooling panels, the company says in a PowerPoint presentation. The procedure causes lipids inside the fat cells to crystallize, triggering cell death. Afterward, the body slowly eliminates these dead cells through the lymphatic system.
Each treatment lasts about an hour with relatively little discomfort, says Dr. Jonathan Jacobs of Associates in Plastic Surgery in Norfolk. So far, Associates in Plastic Surgery has treated 80 percent women, 20 percent men ages 22 to 62, Jacobs says.
“Men like the idea of avoiding surgery,” says Hugo, whose practice has treated men 10–20 percent of the time. “It’s also appealing to men because there’s no down time.”
Patients can go back to work, exercise and otherwise resume normal activity immediately, the company says.
The procedure is best suited for the belly bulge, hip bulge and the so-called bra roll in back, Hugo says. Patients with body mass indexes around 30 are usually good candidates, Jacobs says.
Many patients are women in their 30s who have given birth but can’t lose that stubborn past-partum fat bulge right under the belly button, Jacobs says.
“They want to look like they used to look,” Jacobs says. “There’s a misconception about spot reducing with exercise. We all agree that exercise is good for you, great for the cardiovascular system and great for muscle tone. But doing sit-ups does not make your belly fat go away. It makes your muscles stronger, but it does not target the fat over those muscles.”
Other patients may have asymmetric bulges to be treated, Jacobs says. For example, a person with scoliosis will develop a more full area toward where the spine curves.
With a single treatment, an average of 22 percent of fat cells are permanently eliminated and 90–95 percent of patients achieve a noticeable, natural-looking reduction in fat bulges, the company says. Results are visible as early as three weeks after the procedure with permanent results obvious in three to five months. Ninety percent to 95 percent of patients achieve visible results after just one treatment, the company says.
Because it takes several months for the fat cells to be eliminated, patients don’t see an increase in loose skin, Hugo says.
The procedure does not damage the skin, Hugo says. But afterward, the patient may experience bruising or redness for a few weeks as well as numbness, tingling, itching tenderness, cramping or aching for two to eight weeks, Zeltiq says.
Because the fat cells in the treated area are gone, any weight the patient gains afterward will be elsewhere in the body, Zeltiq says.
Managing patient expectations is key, Hugo notes. This procedure is not for people who are obese, have very hard fat or a significantly extended stomach, Zeltiq says. The best patient is near his or her ideal body weight, but with fat bulges, Hugo says.
“People shouldn’t expect a miracle result,” Hugo says. “We’re very careful to handle the expectations.” Patients can get additional treatments for additional reductions, he notes.
So far, “feedback has been very positive,” Jacobs says.