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One of the biggest success stories in recent years in both the cosmetic enhancement and business worlds has been that of CoolSculpting. The device eliminates fat without surgery, opening up the realm of body contouring to a new demographic of patients uninterested in investing the time or money in more invasive options.

The Idea

CoolSculpting started as a discovery by researchers at a Harvard University teaching hospital in Boston. Doctors there first published findings in 2008 that proved subcutaneous fat cells are more vulnerable to cold than other kinds of tissue. A company called ZELTIQ® was founded by a group of doctors and venture capitalists to cultivate the science, getting FDA clearance and exclusive license for their Cryolipolysis® technique.

slim profile of woman's body

The CoolSculpting device uses this technology to treat patients concerned about stubborn fat, mostly around the waistline. During the procedure, the device pulls bulging areas of skin and fat between cooling panels, and the intense cold kills fat cells. Other kinds of tissue are unaffected because lower temperatures are required to damage them. The patient’s body naturally eliminates the fat cells over the course of a few months, usually resulting in a fat reduction of about 25%.

The Boom

The innovation was unlike anything the aesthetic industry had ever seen, and everyone from plastic surgeons and dermatologists to dentists was getting a CoolSculpting machine for their practices. According to a study done by plastic surgeons Dr. Grant Stevens and Dr. Michelle Spring, who perform CoolSculpting in the Los Angeles area, the number of procedures performed at their practice grew 823% from January 2010 to December 2012.

ZELTIQ, the publicly traded company behind the innovation, released a strong quarterly report at the beginning of August, bumping its revenue growth estimates from 10% to 20% for 2013. The fat-freezing technology seems to be getting hotter and hotter.

The Benefits

The study done by Dr. Stevens and Dr. Spring, published in the August issue of the Aesthetic Surgery Journal , hints at why CoolSculpting is becoming so popular. Conclusions showed an extremely high level of patient satisfaction, with just a few of more than 500 patients expressing concerns (all but 2 then got an additional CoolSculpting treatment and were happy with their results).

The traditional alternative for removing fat around the midsection — the stubborn kind that doesn’t seem to diminish no matter how many crunches a person does — is liposuction. Experienced plastic surgeons still recommend that option for more extensive fat reduction, but, like any surgery, it comes with an inherent dose of pain and recovery time.

Many patients choose CoolSculpting because it is non-surgical and minimally invasive. The procedure involves mild discomfort. Most people liken it to applying an ice pack to their skin; it’s a little intense at first, but it numbs quickly. Then patients usually read or work on their laptops or tablets until the treatment ends. There is usually some slight swelling afterward and occasionally mild bruising, but it fades within days. And there are no scars.

The lack of recovery time may be the factor getting the most patients in the door. Treatments last about an hour, and then most people feel ready to go back to work or their other daily activities. Patients report that they love not having to take off work or make arrangements for care.

Another much-touted benefit by the droves of satisfied CoolSculpting patients out there is the cost. While liposuction often runs upward of $5,000, its non-surgical counterpart tends to come in at a cool $700 to $800 a session, according to a recent report by the Los Angeles Times.

The top minds in the aesthetics industry caution that CoolSculpting can require multiple treatments for optimal results, but they agree that’s hardly a reason to discount the innovation as a major asset for the industry and patients alike. Cosmetic professionals are pleased to have a new tool in their kits, and patients are overwhelmingly happy.

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