CoolSculpting: Risks, Side Effects, and Does It Really Work?
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CoolSculpting: Risks, Side Effects, and Does It Really Work?

Mar 21, 2023

CoolSculpting is the brand name for a fat-freezing method that aims to get rid of stubborn fat in certain parts of your body. The method is called cryolipolysis. The FDA approved it in 2010.

Scientists came up with the idea for cryolipolysis by studying what happens to fat during frostbite. Fat freezes at a higher temperature than skin. The cryolipolysis device cools your fat to a temperature that destroys it while leaving your skin and other tissues unharmed.

Cryolipolysis isn't surgery and doesn't use needles. The device holds the part of your body your doctor wants to target between two paddles. The paddles cool quickly and your doctor leaves them in place for about 35 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. During that time, the process destroys about 20%-25% of the fat cells in the area that's targeted.

The final results may not show up for a few months, but you may start to see some changes within a few weeks. Your immune system clears out the dead fat cells slowly over this time.

Cryolipolysis isn't a way to lose weight. Your doctor might suggest it if you've tried diet and exercise and haven't been able to get rid of certain fat bulges.

You should also avoid cryolipolysis if you have:

You should also avoid it if you:

Cryolipolysis should not be done on areas where there are:

A doctor can use cryolipolysis to help you kill fat cells in areas of your body such as:

You can get cryolipolysis done at your doctor's office, and you don't need to schedule recovery time afterward. It's OK to drive yourself home from the appointment.

There are a few side effects. During the process, you may feel a pulling or tugging on your skin and an intense cold. Afterward, you may feel sore, like you've been exercising. You may also swell a little.

Rarely, cryolipolysis can cause mild or moderate pain afterward. You're also at a slight risk of nerve pain.

Sometimes your skin can look less smooth afterward. Less than 1% of people who get it done have a complication called paradoxical fat hyperplasia. When this happens, the number of fat cells in the area of treatment increase instead of decrease.

Paradoxical fat hyperplasia, or paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH), is when the number of fat cells in the treatment area go up instead of down. Research suggests it's rare, occurring in less than 1 percent of cases. The complication can cause a large, firm, and typically painless mass under the skin in the treatment area. You might also notice a change in bodyweight.

PAH usually happens about 2 to 3 months after treatment. It can occur wherever you were treated. Research suggests this is more likely to happen if:

Other genetic factors may also play a role.

Experts don't think PAH can go away on its own. You may need:

Waiting a few months after your PAH occurs is suggested before getting liposuction.

Studies show that cryolipolysis is safe and effective. The risks are few and rare. There's no damage to your liver. Side effects are mild, too, and go away after a short time. On average, it lessens the amount of fat in targeted areas by 10%-25%.

Cryolipolysis is considered a cosmetic treatment. That means insurance won't cover it.

How much you’ll pay for cryolipolysis depends on several things:

Cryolipolysis for the arms, for example, may take only one session per arm and would cost less per session than larger areas, such as the stomach or love handles. According to the CoolSculpting website, a personalized treatment plan typically costs between $2,000 and $4,000.

Other procedures to remove, shrink, or break down fat include:

Talk to your doctor before having any cosmetic procedure.


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Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: "Cryolipolysis for fat reduction and body contouring: safety and efficacy of current treatment paradigms."

Elase: "How Much Does CoolSculpting Cost?"

MedlinePlus: "Deoxycholic acid injection."

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JAMA Dermatology: "Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia After Cryolipolysis."

Wolters Kluwer Health: "Complication of 'fat freezing' procedure may be more common than thought."

Aesthetic Surgery Journal: "A Multicenter Evaluation of Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia Following Cryolipolysis for Fat Reduction and Body Contouring: A Review of 8658 Cycles in 2114 Patients."