Diving into CoolSculpting®
I recently acquired a CoolSculpting® machine for my office here in Manhattan. As a surgeon, purchasing a non-invasive machine for a traditionally surgical issue is a big jump. When these devices first hit the market, most surgeons – myself included – are the first to say that the device in question can never replace surgery, it’s not safe, the technology isn’t good enough, etc. And, for the majority of non-invasive devices out there, this probably holds true. As a surgeon, I feel that any non-invasive treatment I offer has to be safe, relatively painless, affordable, and must deliver results which are close to what a patient could expect from surgery. These are high expectations, and most non-invasive treatments can’t meet them.
However, even though I tried, I couldn’t ignore the allure of CoolSculpting®. I first heard about CoolSculpting® when one of my long-standing Botox® patients approached me about the treatment. We had been talking for some time about performing a small amount of liposuction on her abdomen, and for both financial and logistical reasons she had repeatedly delayed surgery. She asked if I performed CoolSculpting®, as she wished to try this prior to surgery. I gave her my blessing to see one of my colleagues for the treatment, with the stipulation that she show me her results. My patient kept her word and proudly lifted up her shirt to show me her abdomen at her next visit 3 months later. Her abdomen was flat. Not just a little smaller or more contoured, it was flat. There were no irregularities of the surface of the skin, and no scars. She had spent one hour in a chair receiving her treatment while she made telephone calls and sent emails. Being a typically stubborn and skeptical surgeon, I tried very hard to tell myself that her results were atypical. How could a non-invasive device ever achieve surgical results?
My next encounter with CoolSculpting® was at the 22nd Congress of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, held in Rio last September. One of my colleagues, Dr. Grant Stevens, was at the podium speaking about what a large role non-invasive devices play in his surgical practice. He asked the audience of over 1000 surgeons how many of them had no excess fat anywhere on their bodies. Only two people raised their hands (I was not one of them). He then asked how many of us would like to go to the operating room today for a small liposuction procedure, and no one raised their hand. Dr. Stevens finished by asking how many of us would be willing to spend an hour in the office receiving a fat reduction procedure which was non-invasive and relatively painless. Everyone raised their hands (myself included). My colleague then announced that he had nine CoolSculpting® machines in his office to meet the growing demand for non-invasive body contouring.
Back in New York, I sat down and read through the literature. CoolSculpting® is based on the principle of cryolipolysis®, which is the ability of targeted cold temperature to selectively affect and eliminate fat cells without damaging the skin or surrounding tissues. This finding is based on research performed by scientists from Harvard University, Drs. Dieter Manstein and R. Rox Anderson. The scientific studies are valid, and the results appear to be excellent, both in the literature and in person. So, I took the plunge and purchased a CoolSculpting® machine for my office. We are currently in the training phase and hope to begin offering treatments to patients in early April. I am very enthusiastic about the technology, although the surgeon in me is still a little grumpy that she can’t use her knife for this one.