The Risks And Side-Effects Associated With CoolSculpting

CoolSculpting, known as Cryolipolysis in medical terminology, is a non-surgical technique to reduce localized fat. Since other invasive methods such as liposuction pose many health risks and complications, people are opting for CoolSculpting, as it has very few temporary side-effects. However, the long-term effect of CoolSculpting has not been evaluated as yet.1

CoolSculpting offers a promising technique for non-surgical body contouring. This procedure appears to be safe in the short-term, with a limited side-effect profile and results in significant fat reduction when used for localized adiposities.2 Fat cells frozen during CoolSculpting are permanently eliminated by the body. The procedure does not involve any incisions and there are no post-treatment scars. Also, the patient does not require

any rest or recovery time. However, this is not a treatment for obesity, but it is meant to remove small amounts of excess fat that doesn’t easily go away with diet and exercise alone.

Here, we look at the risks and side-effects associated with CoolSculpting.

1. Skin Sensitivity

CoolSculpting can cause skin sensitivity

Patients may experience some effects related to skin sensitivity in the area subjected to the treatment. These effects, which occur due to the exposure to cold temperatures, tend to fade away on their own after a few weeks. CoolSculpting is safe for all skin types, with no reported pigmentary changes, and is safe for repeated application.3 Some of the fat cells in the cooled area are destroyed and ultimately disposed of by the liver. Some common effects on the skin include,

  • Redness
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Skin sensitivity

It is not

uncommon to have bruising, swelling and delayed onset pain after a CoolSculpting procedure. This pain is more commonly experienced with abdominal CoolSculpting. It begins 3-5 days after the procedure and can last for up to 10 days. Most patients experience an intense suctioning feel in the treated area accompanied by moderate discomfort and a burning / stinging sensation. After the first 10 minutes, the discomfort subsides and the patients are more relaxed during the remainder of the treatment hour.

2. Tugging Sensation

A tugging sensation is also experienced after a CoolSculpting procedure

Some patients also report a tugging sensation during the procedure, which involves placing a molded cup on the specific area of the body. Then, a heavy-duty suction pulls the fat bulge inside the paddles where it is chilled. Once the fat is secured inside the machine, it is cooled to the point where it is broken down. A typical session takes less than an hour and no anesthesia is required. This process

can create a sensation of tugging or pulling that is experienced for an hour or two.4

3. Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia

CoolSculpting may sometimes cause paradoxical adipose hyperplasia

Although very rare, some patients may experience a serious condition called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia. Affected patients exhibit fat loss after the procedure and then develop a large, demarcated, tender fat mass in the same area 2 to 3 months later. Experts estimate that the possibility of occurrence is approximately one in 20,000.5

The exact cause of this phenomenon is unknown, but several hypothesized mechanisms are under discussion.6 This condition, know to occur mostly among men, is a cosmetic complication rather than a physically dangerous side-effect.

4. Stinging Sensation And Pain

CoolSculpting can also cause stinging sensation and pain

Many reports have shown that another common side-effect of CoolSculpting is a stinging sensation, pain, or aching felt in the area treated. The most common complaint is pain occurring two weeks after the procedure, which resolves without any intervention. The reason for this sensation is attributed to the exposure of the skin and the tissue to intense cold temperatures. One particular study from 2015 found that post-treatment pain usually lasted 3-11 days and subsided thereafter on its own.7

Despite experiencing the stinging or aching sensation, the skin is not affected. In

CoolSculpting, fat freezes at a higher temperature than water. As the skin contains a high percentage of water, it doesn’t freeze as readily as the fat does. When the applicator is placed on the treatment area, only the underlying fat freezes. The skin turns cold but does not freeze and no other tissues are damaged.8

Who Should Avoid CoolSculpting?

CoolSculpting could cause serious complications in people with certain pre-existing disorders. First, consult your doctor about the safety aspect. People with the following conditions should not undergo CoolSculpting:

  • Cryoglobulinemia – a medical condition in which the blood contains large amounts of cryoglobulins that become insoluble at reduced temperatures
  • Cold agglutinin disease – a rare form of autoimmune hemolytic anemia caused by cold-reacting autoantibodies
  • Paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria (PCH) – a rare type of anemia characterized by the premature destruction of healthy red blood cells by autoantibodies