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Liposuction Versus Zeltiq (“Lunchtime LIPO”)

By November 21, 2012 No Comments

We have all heard the phrase “if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is”. In the world of cosmetics and plastic surgery the word “lunchtime” before any procedure immediately loses credibility.

For years we have heard of the minimally invasive “lunchtime facelift,” that was wrought with complications and worked in some most patients for up to a year. Now we are hearing about Zeltiq, the “lunchtime” liposuction, which boasts a noninvasive, painless way of removing unwanted fat.

Obviously as physicians trained in Plastic and Reconstructive surgery, we are very skeptical. We are always looking for the latest technology to reach an end result, but we are driven by evidence-based medicine and have yet to see the “quick and easy way” prove to be reliable and reproducible.

With that being said, what is the difference between liposuction and Zeltiq, a.k.a. “coolsculpting?” We will try to describe the main points below. Keep in the back of your mind the following: In general, with current technology, painless and noninvasive procedures are not effective for the masses. Sure, a few anectodal evidence may show improvement, but it can be extremely disappointing to pay a few thousand dollars, only for it not to work!

What is liposuction?  Read about this fat removal surgery on our liposuction page.

What is CoolSculpting and how does it differ from all existing fat reduction procedures? Read about CoolSculpting. 

Here are some advantages of CoolSculpting:

• No downtime
• No need for anesthesia
• Pain-free
• No incisions
• Cheaper than traditional liposuction

SO…What’s the conclusion?

It is obvious that the dramatic results that are obtained with traditional liposuction can not be obtained with a noninvasive fat reducer, Zeltiq.

From our discussion with patients and doctors who have had experience with CoolSculpting or other non-invasive means of fat reduction, it is clear that the claims that are made are for less than 50% of the patients treated. It is true that there is no downtime, however there CAN BE pain associated with the procedure which sometimes lasts for months and is a shooting and electrical pain that is very bothersome. This may be due to sensory nerve damage, and the shooting pains are nerve regrowth. Furthermore, the cost is variable and at times might run significantly higher than GOOD liposuction that gets rid of the problem areas once and for all with ONE procedure.

In our experience, we have been asked about every modality to reduce fat and have evaluated each modality’s effectiveness. Zeltiq looks like a variation on a very similar theme as each new laser surfaces. This time cold temperatures are used to kill the fat as opposed to ultrasound. There is, of course, no good objective evidence that this does much of anything. Current literature shows a decrease in fat layers by 1.8mm at 4 months. 1.8 MILLIMETERS! This was a multicenter, prospective, non-randomized study* that only included 32 patients that showed “promising results.”

We doubt this freezing non-invasive technique accomplishes much in the average patient. Safe and effective might be two different things here. We’ll see how this one is received as time passes.

Our Opinion: C-

Out of 10 patients who undergo this procedure…
2 are extremely happy with results = 20%
2 are somewhat happy with results = 20%
4 patients noticed minimal improvement = 40%
2 patients noticed no improvement = 20%

* Dover J, Burns J, Coleman S, et al. A prospective clinical study of noninvasive cryolipolysis for subcutaneous fat layer reduction: Interim report of available subject data. Lasers Surg Med. 2009;41:706.