ABC7’s The More in the Morning team spoke with Dr. Michael K. Kim, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon, about Cool Sculpting and some potential risks and side effects with the popular procedure.
What is Cool Sculpting
Fat is sucked into a suction-cup-like handpiece, and this area of fat in the handpiece is exposed to very low temperatures which, in essence, freeze the fat cells and cause them to crystalize. The frozen fat cells then die (cellular apoptosis) and then the immune system clears away the cellular debris. The method is called cryolipolysis.
Cool Sculpting is not a holistic weight loss procedure like gastric bypass. Rather it is designed to eliminate targeted areas of body fat and intended to treat areas of fat that can't be addressed through diet, exercise or lifestyle changes.
What are some of the risks and side effects?
Common CoolSculpting side effects include the following, all located where the treatment was done:
- Tugging sensation at the treatment site
- Pain, stinging, or aching at the treatment site
- Temporary redness, swelling, bruising, and skin sensitivity at the treatment site
- Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH) at the treatment site
What is Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH)
A very rare but serious side effect of CoolSculpting is paradoxical adipose hyperplasia or PAH. 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.
The PAH gradually enlarges the area. When the cell freezing or the stimulus kicks in a reactionary process in the fat cells, they start to thicken up. The fat cells start to expand instead of breaking down and allowing the body to remove them. This cannot be confirmed within the first six months of the fat removal process.
Previously it was seen in 1 patient among 4000 treatments. Now the ratio is 1:138. Still the occurrence is less than 1% among the patients but the physicians and doctors are paying close attention to it.