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What is Cryolipolysis?

What is Cryolipolysis?Cryolipolysis is a non-invasive treatment that uses cold temperatures to reduce fat tissue on areas of the body with the densest amount of fat tissue, such as the abdomen, back, waist and thighs. Cryolipolysis goes against the conventional treatment of fat tissue from the last 20 years in that instead of using heat to “melt” fat, cold temperatures are used to “freeze” fat. In the past, the epidermis was cooled to prevent blistering while the dermal layers were heated. With Cryolipolysis, the cold can breakdown areas of fat tissue by targeting adipocytes (fat cells) – once the adipocytes have shrunk or withered from the cold temps, they will eventually be metabolized by the lymphatic system.


Cryolipolysis is performed in a doctor’s office and involves placing a flat, saucer-shaped, suction-cup device (approximately 3-4cm wide) on the area of treatment. The device cools rapidly and is held on the area between 5-20 minutes. This method affects, or “freezes”, the subcutaneous layers of fat tissue without disturbing the normal temperature of the epidermis. In animal studies, fat breakdown has been shown to occur at –1 degree Celsius (approximately 31 degrees Fahrenheit). Since treatment areas need to reach cold enough temps in increments, one session can last up to one hour, with additional sessions needed on a case-by-case basis.


Cryolipolysis was created by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and is currently awaiting approval in the United States by the FDA. An American company called Zeltiq holds the patent for the saucer-like devices, but so far has only devices for treating the waist and outer upper thighs (or saddlebags). It plans on creating a device for the abdomen and thighs. Cryolipolysis has been conducted on 200 patients in clinical trials; results so far have been this: after the first treatment, some patients noticed an approximate 25% loss of body fat. Some patients may need only one session, while others may not see full results until after 3-4 months of treatment, since fat has to gradually breakdown. Little to no discomfort has been noted, although some patients may require anesthetic since chilling the skin may be painful to some. According to some medical sources, Cryolipolysis may eventually be more effective than heat-using methods such as Acoustic Wave Therapy or radio frequency therapy.


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