For obvious reasons, patients are increasingly opting to receive minimally invasive fat reduction treatments to sculpt and debulk their bodies. Cryolipolysis® (i.e. controlled cooling to crystallize fat cells) in particular has become a very popular modality, and leading the pack is CoolSculpting®. Philadelphia area dermatologist Victoria A. Cirillo-Hyland, MD explains how the treatment works.

“Fat reduction” has become an oft-used term in the world of cosmetic dermatology, and it is important to understand that this is not the same as weight loss. While lifestyle changes such as improving diet and exercise habits may lead to weight loss and can shrink fat cells, they cannot actually eliminate fat cells.

The “weight” of the body includes the total weight of bones, muscles, organs, fat, and more. Losing weight, therefore, could mean that fat cells have shrunk – or that muscle mass has reduced. Losing fat, however, is a more specific target.

Fat distribution depends on factors other than weight changes, such as age and genetics. Even if a disciplined person with a strict regimen reaches a healthy weight, they could still struggle with localized fat deposits that will not diminish past a certain point with diet and exercise.

Fat reduction methods can help bridge that gap. While surgical methods such as liposuction can provide immediate and dramatic results, the sheer expense, risks, recovery time, and post-procedural discomfort associated with them are enough for many individuals to seek less invasive, non-surgical alternatives.

CoolSculpting® is an FDA-cleared, non-invasive, and non-surgical fat reduction device that operates on the principle of Cryolipolysis®. Fat cells are much more sensitive to temperature changes than skin or other types of tissue, which means they can be cooled to the point of crystallization and death – all while leaving other surrounding tissues unharmed.

Cooling is performed through interchangeable applicators that connect to the CoolSculpting® machine. Each applicator comes in a different shape and size to customize the fit to each patient’s unique contours. The most common areas for treatment include:

Waist, abdomen, and hips (often called “love handles”)
Back (especially bra fat)
Inner and outer thighs
Submental area (i.e. between the chin and neck)
Buttocks, or the area underneath (often called a “banana roll”)
Arm fat (often called “bat wings”)

When applied to a treatment area, the CoolSculpting® device will gradually cool it to a temperature of about 39° F, at which point fat cells will start to crystallize and break down. Over time, the body will safely flush out the remnants of these cells through its natural processes, and leave the treated areas slimmer.

Most of the applicators apply controlled vacuum pressure to suction the treatment area closer to itself for efficient cooling. The only exception is the CoolSmooth™ applicator, which is meant to treat non-pinchable fat, such as the “saddlebags” that tend to form at the outer thighs. Its flatter surface is more suitable for controlled cooling of such fat deposits.

The duration of each CoolSculpting® treatment varies depending on the size of the treatment area, but often lasts about an hour. After a session, there may be some temporary side effects such as redness, numbness or tingling, bruising, tenderness, or swelling in the treated areas. However, such effects tend to be mild to moderate, and resolve on their own within a few days.

To maximize efficiency during a treatment session, select practices perform “DualSculpting” (Dr. Cirillo’s practice, for example, was the first in the Philadelphia area to do so) using two applicators to treat two areas simultaneously – cutting treatment duration by half, in many cases.

While patients may take some time to get accustomed to the sensations of cooling and/or suction, the treatment is virtually painless, and comfortable enough that many patients read, use mobile devices, or even take a nap while the CoolSculpting® device works its magic.

The total number of treatment sessions required depend on the number and sizes of treatment areas, and the results to be achieved. Some patients start to notice results as early as three weeks after a treatment session, but final results should be visible in about two to four months after the last session. The body may still continue to flush out leftover matter from crystallized fat cells for up to six months.

Remember that while these fat cells may be crystallized away, remaining fat cells (which are normal and healthy to have) can still accumulate fat. To maintain the results long term, patients must be committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle with appropriate diet and exercise habits.

At Cirillo Cosmetic Dermatology Spa in the Philadelphia area, Dr. Cirillo and her staff practice “CoolSculpting® Plus,” a value-added treatment protocol that includes Z WavePro therapy to maximize fat reduction results and boost the skin’s firmness and elasticity. To learn more about CoolSculpting®, Z WavePro, and other fat reduction treatments, contact Cirillo Cosmetic online or call 610.525.5029.

Victoria A. Cirillo-Hyland