CoolSculpting, also called cryolipolysis, is a medical procedure that helps get rid of excess fat cells underneath your skin. While there are several benefits to CoolSculpting, it’s important to be aware of the risks if you’re considering this procedure.
During a CoolSculpting procedure, a plastic surgeon or other licensed practitioner uses a special tool to cool certain parts of your body to freezing temperature. The procedure freezes and kills fat cells in the part of your body that you’re having treated. Within a few weeks of treatment, these dead fat cells are naturally broken down and flushed out of your body through your liver.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has certified CoolSculpting as a safe medical treatment. CoolSculpting has many benefits over traditional liposuction. It’s nonsurgical, noninvasive, and requires no recovery time. And it’s effective in reducing fat cells in a given treatment area by up to 20 to 25 percent.
However, CoolSculpting can cause several side effects, and it’s not recommended for everyone. Keep reading to learn more.
Risks and side effects
Some common side effects of CoolSculpting include:
1. Tugging sensation at the treatment site
During a CoolSculpting procedure, your doctor will place a roll of fat between two cooling panels on the part of your body that’s being treated. This can create a sensation of tugging or pulling that you’ll have to put up with for one to two hours, which is how long the procedure usually takes.
2. Pain, stinging, or aching at the treatment site
Researchers have found that a common side effect of CoolSculpting is pain, stinging, or aching at the treatment site. These sensations typically begin soon after treatment until about two weeks after treatment. The intense cold temperatures that the skin and tissue are exposed to during CoolSculpting may be the cause.
A study from 2015 reviewed the results of people who had collectively done 554 crypolipolysis procedures over one year. The review found that any post-treatment pain usually lasted 3-11 days and went away on its own.
3. Temporary redness, swelling, bruising, and skin sensitivity at the treatment site
Common CoolSculpting side effects include the following, all located where the treatment was done:
- temporary redness
- skin sensitivity
These are caused by exposure to cold temperatures. They usually go away on their own after a few weeks. These side effects occur because CoolSculpting affects the skin in a similar manner as frostbite, in this case targeting the fatty tissue just below the skin. However, CoolSculpting is safe and will not give you frostbite.
4. Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia at the treatment site
A very rare but serious side effect of CoolSculpting is paradoxical adipose hyperplasia. It occurs most in men. This means the fat cells in the treatment site grow larger rather than smaller. It’s not fully understood why this occurs. While it’s a cosmetic rather than physically dangerous side effect, paradoxical adipose hyperplasia doesn’t disappear on its own.
Who should avoid CoolSculpting
CoolSculpting is a safe and effective treatment for reducing body fat in most people. However, there are some people who should not receive this treatment. People with the following conditions should not do CoolSculpting:
- cold agglutinin disease
- paroxysmal cold hemoglobulinuria
CoolSculpting could cause serious complications for people with these disorders.
Whether or not you have these preexisting conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor before seeking out a plastic or cosmetic surgeon to perform the procedure.
It’s also important to note that CoolSculpting is not a treatment for obesity. Rather, it can help eliminate small amounts of excess fat that doesn’t easily go away with diet and exercise alone.
If you’re a good candidate for it, CoolSculpting has some benefits over other fat-elimination procedures. Fat cells frozen by CoolSculpting never return because the body eliminates them. There are no incisions because it’s a noninvasive procedure, and there’s no scarring after treatment. There’s also no required rest or recovery time. Results may begin to show in as little as a few weeks, with most people experiencing full results three months after their final treatment.