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New technique freezes off body fat

Published: Thu, December 2, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

McClatchy Newspapers


Sandra Parrish perches on the edge of a sofa in the waiting room at JoAnne Lopes’ plastic surgery practice, enjoying its picturesque water view. The setting is part doctor’s office and part spa. Patients leaf through magazines and brochures on the latest applications and techniques for anti-aging remedies and appearance enhancements.

Among them is literature on CoolSculpting by Zeltiq, a noninvasive technique for eliminating unwanted fat in various areas — the abdomen, “love handles,” back, inner thighs, under the chin, and upper arms.

Far from the fat “melting” away, it actually is frozen into oblivion and excreted naturally by the body over several weeks.

Whereas nerves and blood vessels freeze at 0 degrees Centigrade, fat freezes at 4 degrees, allowing it to be targeted in isolation. The criolypolisis procedure is guaranteed to reduce unwanted fat in the targeted area by a minimum of 25 percent, says Lopes, who bought the R2D2-like Zeltiq machine and started offering the CoolSculpting service in August. A second treatment can increase the loss to 50 percent, she says.

Parrish, 59, petite and trim, tried the one-hour procedure on her lower abdomen five weeks ago. She was prompted to do it after her daughter commented on her “little poochy belly” at the beach this summer and she saw a TV ad about it.

She’s not interested in losing weight, but in sculpting her body.

“It’s good for fat that’s resistant to diet and exercise,” says Lopes.

Only those who can grab a roll of flesh and fit it between the cooling blades of the machine are candidates; it’s not suitable for the severely overweight or obese.

The procedure itself is “like a vacuum cleaner on steroids. You feel pressure. ... Your skin feels cold, but you don’t feel cold,” says Parrish. She brought in her laptop and relaxed in a well-appointed room for the 60 minutes it took. “It’s like you’re lounging at home. The time just flew by. I felt pampered,” she says.

For a few minutes afterwards it creates a temporary ridge of red flesh, “like a brick,” that reverts to normal as soon as it warms.

Already, a little after a month later, Parrish says she can feel a difference: “It’s not as thick when I grab it, there’s not as much bulk.”

It will take between two and four months for the cosmetic process to complete.

“Those fat cells are dead and won’t come back,” says Lopes, though remaining fat cells can regenerate in other places. It can leave loose skin that can be left as is, or surgically repaired.

“Most people say they just want to look good in their clothes,” adds Lopes, the only board-certified female plastic surgeon currently using the procedure in the Newport News, Va., region. She tried it herself on one side of her waist. “I didn’t have time to do both,” she says, indicating that she can feel the difference on the side when she leans over.

The procedure has several selling points for those who meet the qualifying criteria: it’s less expensive than liposuction (Parrish paid $750 out of pocket for her one-time procedure), there’s no anesthesia, no pain, no needles or incision, no medications and no recovery time.

“You may have a little redness up to a couple of weeks, but there’s minimal tenderness. You don’t even need Tylenol,” says Lopes.

And there’s the privacy of it — no one has to know that you’ve had it because the loss proceeds at a slow, natural rate.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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