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The Skinny on Freezing Fat

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Freezing Fat for Body Contouring: The Latest Trend in Aesthetic Procedures

Freezing fat, also known as cryolipolysis, is a non-invasive cosmetic procedure that eliminates fat cells by freezing them. This process results in a more contoured and toned appearance of the targeted area. This procedure has gained popularity over recent times due to its non-invasiveness and natural-looking results.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there has been a 4% increase in the number of people who underwent the procedure in 2020, compared to 2019. The rise of virtual meetings and working from home during the pandemic has only increased the interest and demand for this treatment.

Understanding Freezing Fat

Freezing Fat, also known as cryolipolysis, is a cosmetic procedure that originated in 2008 by two Harvard scientists, Dieter Manstein, and R. Rox Anderson. They found that cold temperatures could selectively target fat cells, which led to the development of freezing fat technology.

Freezing fat works by targeting specific areas of the body that contain excess levels of stubborn fat cells. The targeted area is exposed to extreme cold temperatures to freeze the fat cells, causing them to break down and get eliminated from the body naturally. This process eliminates the need for invasive procedures such as liposuction, making it a safe and effective alternative.

The procedure's targeted areas include the abdomen, arms, thighs, flanks, and double chin. The areas where there is subcutaneous fat, which are fat cells that sit directly beneath the skin, are the best target for this procedure.

The technology itself works by applying a specific temperature to the area being treated via a specialized applicator. This device applies suction and cooling to the targeted area, which causes the fat cells to cool down to a temperature low enough to end up being frozen and then progressively eliminated. The procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the target area.

To get optimal results, one requires some sessions and hence patience, usually within the span of two to three months difference. It is more of a gradual fat loss process rather than instant fat reduction.

Benefits of Freezing Fat

Freezing Fat is gaining popularity as a body contouring procedure due to its various benefits. Here are some of the benefits that the procedure offers:

Non-invasive Nature of the Procedure

The freezing fat procedure uses non-invasive technology to eliminate excess fat from targeted areas of the body. Unlike liposuction or other invasive procedures, freezing fat does not require incisions or anesthesia. It is a simple procedure that can be performed in a doctor's office, and patients can return to their regular activities immediately after.

No Recovery Time

Since the procedure is non-invasive, there is no downtime or recovery period required. Patients can head back to work and resume their typical activities right after the treatment. This is one of the significant advantages of freezing fat compared to other invasive fat reduction procedures.

Natural-looking Results

Freezing Fat technology works by targeting only the fat cells, leaving surrounding tissues unaffected. This capability ensures that the procedure provides natural-looking results, unlike other invasive procedures that can cause contour irregularities. The gradual results typically appear within weeks to months of the procedure, unlike abrupt results from surgical procedures.

Safety Measures of Freezing Fat

Although freezing fat is generally considered a safe procedure, there are still some risks associated with it. It is essential to understand potential side effects, take necessary precautions, and be aware of the risks before undergoing the procedure.

Possible Side Effects

Patients may experience some side effects after undergoing the freezing fat procedure. These side effects are often mild and may include:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Bruising
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Mild to moderate discomfort
  • Temporary dimpling or unevenness in the treated area

These symptoms typically resolve themselves within a few days or weeks after the procedure. Severe or prolonged side effects are rare but may include nerve damage, skin infections, and severe pain.

Precautions before Undergoing the Procedure

It is essential to take certain precautions before undergoing the procedure to ensure the best possible results. Patients are encouraged to:

  • Find a qualified and experienced medical provider who has expertise in performing the procedure
  • Discuss their medical history and any existing conditions with the provider to determine if freezing fat is right for them
  • Refrain from smoking or using tobacco products before and after the procedure to promote faster healing and reduce any potential complications
  • Avoid taking anti-inflammatory medications or supplements like aspirin, herbal remedies, or fish oil as they may increase bruising or bleeding

Risks Associated with the Procedure

Like any other medical procedure, there are risks associated with Freezing Fat. The risks may include:

  • Damage to nerves or blood vessels in the treated area
  • Infection
  • Permanent scarring
  • Cosmetic disappointment
  • Changes in skin sensations or texture

The rare; however, the chance of complications is low, and most patients who undergo the procedure make a swift and full recovery.

Cost and Expectations

When it comes to freezing fat, the cost and expectations can vary depending on several factors, including the area of the body being treated, the number of treatments required, and the provider's experience. Nevertheless, it is important to understand what you can expect in terms of cost and results before undergoing the procedure.

Expected Cost of the Procedure

The cost of the freezing fat procedure can range from $600 to $1,600 per treatment. The price will depend on several factors, including the area of the body being treated and the provider's experience and reputation. Some clinics offer packages or payment plans, which can make the procedure more affordable for those on a budget.

The Number of Treatments Required for Optimal Results

The number of treatments required to achieve the maximum benefits of freezing fat can vary depending on various factors such as:

  • The amount of fat in the targeted area
  • The patient's specific goals and expectations
  • The patient's overall health and lifestyle habits
  • The provider's recommended approach to treatment

Typically, most patients will need at least two to four treatments to achieve optimal results. However, patients can start to see results in as little as three weeks after their initial treatment.

Treatment Duration and Expected Results

The typical duration of a single freezing fat treatment session can range from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the area of the body being treated. After the treatment, patients may experience some mild swelling, bruising, or sensitivity, which often resolves itself within a few hours or days.

Over time, the frozen fat cells die, and the body naturally processes and removes them, resulting in a slimmer and more toned appearance. However, it is important to note that freezing fat is not a weight-loss procedure; rather, it is a body contouring treatment. Patients must maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle habits to maintain their results over time.

Summary of the Benefits and Risks Associated with the Procedure

Freezing fat has numerous benefits, including minimal invasiveness, no recovery time, and natural-looking results. The procedure involves the use of controlled cooling to target and eliminate stubborn fat cells in problem areas such as the abdomen, thighs, and upper arms.

However, the procedure also comes with some risks, including possible side effects such as bruising, redness, and numbness. Patients should also be aware that freezing fat is not a weight loss procedure and is best suited for targeting specific areas of stubborn fat that haven't responded to diet and exercise.

Comparison with Other Fat Reduction Procedures

Compared to other fat reduction procedures such as liposuction or tummy tucks, freezing fat offers patients a non-invasive, non-surgical alternative. While liposuction can remove a larger amount of fat in a shorter amount of time, it requires anesthesia and involves incisions, which can prolong the recovery period.

Freezing fat, on the other hand, involves no incisions or anesthesia and allows patients to return to their daily activities immediately after the procedure. However, patients may need multiple treatments to achieve the desired results.

Final Thoughts on Freezing Fat as a Viable Option for Weight Loss

While freezing fat is not a weight loss procedure, it can be a viable option for individuals looking to target specific areas of stubborn fat that are resistant to diet and exercise. The procedure is generally considered safe and effective, but patients should do their research and choose an experienced provider who can help them achieve the best possible results.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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