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About Nonsurgical Fat Reduction

Non-surgical fat reduction, also known as non-invasive body contouring or CoolSculpting.

Non-surgical fat reduction is an aesthetic procedure that uses specialized equipment to reduce small volumes of fat without injury. You will be offered various options depending on the look you desire, your body and your medical history. There are currently two main types of devices for non-surgical fat removal. Cryoliplysis (sometimes known as cold energy) and radio-frequency/ultrasound. Both of these technologies come with the benefit of a low recovery time and consistently effective fat reduction, which is one of the reasons this type of cosmetic procedure is increasingly popular. Doctors use these technologies to reduce and to shape certain areas of the body prone to stubborn fatty deposits.

You can be in relatively good shape and still consider having a non-surgical fat reduction treatment. Usually people wish to have a particular area of stubborn and unwanted fat that they would like to have reduced. Areas like the abdomen, back, thighs and hips are popular. These areas of fat tend to be unresponsive to dieting or exercise.


How is it performed?

Depending upon your required look, anatomy and medical history, your surgeon may recommend one of the following treatments:


  • Ultrasound uses radio-frequency waves on fat in the treated area. The ultrasound waves do not affect your skin or other tissues because it passes right through. Once the fat cells have been destroyed by the ultrasound, they are slowly absorbed back into your body. Sessions can last anywhere between half an hour to several hours, as sometimes an area may need to be treated more than once.


  • During cryolipoylsis treatments, the area of fat to be removed is held between two metal plates, which will slowly cool down the area. This usually takes about an hour per area. Clinical studies have demonstrated that cryolipoylsis does work as intended; however the FDA still considers this an ‘off-label’ treatment. Cryolipolysis works by disrupting the fat cells through controlled frostbite. Studies have shown that fat cells freeze before skin cells, which is the reason why cryolipolysis can work without damaging your skin. Your fat cells succumb to frostbite and “die”, before being slowly absorbed back into the body.

Patient alert: 
Injection Lipolysis (also known as mesotherapy)

Currently the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery does not endorse mesotherapy/lipodissolve injections because of inadequate data and research about their safety and effectiveness. Do not seek treatment from individuals who are unlicensed and unqualified. You should always consult with a board certified plastic surgeon if you are considering a non-surgical fat reduction procedure.

Depending on your skin type, the area that is being treated and the amount of fat to be removed, you may be offered any of the following devices.

  • Ultrashape
  • Liposonix
  • Cryolipolysis
  • Zeltiq

What result can I expect?

The adult body does not produce new fat cells, so the results of non-surgical fat reduction are as permanent as liposuction or other surgical procedures.

Maintain a relationship with your aesthetic plastic surgeon. For safety, as well as the most beautiful and healthy outcome, it’s important to return for follow-up evaluation at prescribed times.



  • Effective in diminishing stubborn areas of unwanted body fat
  • Outpatient treatment with little to no downtime and minimal discomfort
  • No incision required


  • Multiple treatment sessions may be needed to produce satisfactory results
  • Small burns are extremely rare, but have been noted with ultrasound devices
  • Temporary redness and numbness may occur


You may notice you have some redness and swelling in the treated area, with perhaps some numbness as well, but these will usually disappear quickly. In some cases, patients may benefit from pain medication. It is important that you follow all patient care instructions provided by your surgeon.

Recovery Time

You will be able to return to work and resume normal activity right away. You’ll see noticeable fat reduction in the treated areas within one to two months following the procedure.

Limits & Risks

Significant complications from non-surgical fat reduction procedures are rare. Your specific risks for non-surgical fat reduction will be discussed during your consultation. Any procedure comes with some degree of risk.

Some potential complications of all surgeries are:

  • Adverse reaction to anaesthesia
  • Hematoma or seroma (an accumulation of blood or fluid under the skin that may require removal)
  • Infection and bleeding
  • Changes in sensation
  • Scarring
  • Allergic reactions
  • Damage to underlying structures
  • Unsatisfactory results that may necessitate additional procedures
  • Blood clots in your legs or lungs

Other risks specific to non-surgical fat reduction are outlined below:

  • Temporary redness, bruising, tingling and tenderness.
  • Temporary dulling of sensation or cramping.
  • Small burns are extremely rare, but have been noted with the ultrasound devices.
  • You can minimize the risk to you by carefully following the instructions and advice of your plastic surgeon before and after your cosmetic surgery procedure.