Liposuction vs. CoolSculpting: Which Is Best for Me?

Fatty bulges around the waist, arms, and thighs can cause deep insecurities. While a wardrobe of loose clothing and Spanx can help hide some problem areas, they cannot help everywhere, and certainly do not provide a permanent solution. Both women and men can end up feeling incredibly self-conscious about the jiggly fatty tissue on their body.

When you’re tired of trying to camouflage those lumpy, cottage cheese areas for good, liposuction will probably be the first thing that comes to mind. You may have also heard the buzz around CoolSculpting, the newest, noninvasive treatment for fat elimination. Both sound fantastic, but is one really better than the other?

The bottom line is that both liposuction and CoolSculpting are extremely effective at eliminating areas of fatty tissue and contouring the figure. Many people will find that they will get an excellent result with either treatment, while others may conclude that one procedure better fits their unique needs. So which will be better for you?

Liposuction Is the Traditional Favorite

Liposuction is the removal of fatty tissue, utilizing vacuum suction through specialized tubing and a cannula (hollow metal tubing). The procedure is referred to by a variety of different names, including liposculpture, lipoplasty, suction-assisted fat removal, lipo-dissolve, and lipo.

Liposuction was first used in the 1920s by French surgeon Charles Dujarier. While his innovative concepts of fat removal and body contouring were far ahead of their time, his procedure caused a model to develop gangrene in her leg. Needless to say, use of the technique was halted. Over the following years, safer and more effective equipment was developed. Then, in the early 1980s, another French surgeon began performing liposuction as we know it today. The procedure has since become a household name, synonymous with fat elimination.

How Liposuction Works

The basics of liposuction are simple. It is based on the principle of negative pressure, like sucking through a straw. The same type of suction can be used to gently extract groups of fat cells from the body. Liposuction takes between one to three hours to perform, normally on an outpatient basis.

To begin the liposuction procedure, several very small incisions, about 1/8th of an inch long, are created along the target area. Through these incisions, the tiny cannula will be inserted. Saline, epinephrine (to reduce bleeding), and potentially an anesthetic are first flushed into the area. The cannula is then firmly moved back and fourth under the skin, loosening the fatty tissue. It is then suctioned down the tubing and into a flask for disposal. This process will continue until the area has been sculpted to the desired shape and form. In addition to a local anesthetic with IV sedation, general anesthesia may be used during the procedure, as well.

CoolSculpting: The New Kid on the Block

The most recent advancement in fat elimination is CoolSculpting. The Food and Drug Administration approved CoolSculpting in 2010, deeming it a safe method for the elimination of fatty tissue. This noninvasive technique is steadily growing in popularity, especially with the benefit of no downtime or discomfort.

The idea to use Cryolipolysis (freezing fatty tissue) first came from two Harvard dermatologists. Studies had previously shown that toddlers, given popsicles for pain relief during teething, were left with permanent dimples where their cheek fat had frozen. The physicians knew they were on to something, and so began doing extensive research freezing fat cells. The results of their studies showed that freezing these cells consistently recorded an average of 20-25 percent fat removal.

How CoolSculpting Works

Performed in a comfortable, in-office treatment room, CoolSculpting takes only one hour per area. To begin, a clear gel pad is placed along the treatment area, protecting the skin. Next, the CoolSculpting applicator is placed along the same area. The fatty tissue is then vacuumed inside the applicator, where it is sandwiched between two cooling panels.

The temperature of the cooling surfaces slowly drops, naturally numbing the area. As the cooling occurs, the area’s fat cells are frozen. However, the healthy skin, muscles, and nerves are not affected by the temperature change. Once the CoolSculpting applicator has been in place for 60 minutes, it is then removed. The practitioner will normally give the treatment area a gentle massage to assist in the break up of as many fat cells as possible. Over the following two to four months, the frozen fat cells will die off. They are then slowly eliminated from the body.

The Pros and Cons of Liposuction and CoolSculpting

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery has named liposuction as one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the United States. This is because it has some compelling advantages over other treatments.

Pros of Liposuction:

  • Liposuction is more aggressive than CoolSculpting.
  • Liposuction is excellent at complete fat reduction in an area.
  • Greater body contouring can be seen with liposuction, as the cannula can be maneuvered along a larger, tailored area. CoolSculpting is limited to the area that slips into the applicator.
  • Results from liposuction can be seen immediately.
  • Liposuction can be performed with other body contouring procedures for greater results, such as the Tummy Tuck, brachioplasty, or Mommy Makeover.

Cons of Liposuction:

  • As an invasive procedure, liposuction has a small chance for scarring and infection to occur.
  • A liposuction treatment takes one to three hours to complete on an outpatient basis, and requires several days of downtime, with four to six weeks of restricted activity.
  • May result in surface irregularities.
  • Liposuction is more costly than CoolSculpting.
  • Some discomfort can be expected during the recovery.

CoolSculpting is one of the fastest growing, noninvasive treatments today. Those without the time for the extensive recovery associated with liposuction may find the quick, relatively painless CoolSculpting procedure provides the perfect results.

Pros of CoolSculpting:

  • CoolSculpting is a noninvasive procedure, meaning there is little chance for scarring or infection.
  • The procedure is relatively painless, and requires absolutely no downtime.
  • Patients are back to their normal routine immediately after treatment.
  • Generally, CoolSculpting is less expensive than liposuction.

Cons of CoolSculpting:

  • Results take between two to four months to be fully seen.
  • The treatment area is limited to the area fitting into the applicator. This means that an additional CoolSculpting procedure will be needed to address adjacent areas.
  • The end result of CoolSculpting is less dramatic than that of liposuction.
  • Surface irregularities may also occur with CoolSculpting.
  • Since the treatment area must accommodate the CoolSculpting applicator, and be soft enough to suck into the device, very taut skin or hard to reach areas may not be suitable.
  • CoolSculpting holds the risk, although extremely rare, of pain, as well as a paradoxical increase in remaining fat cells.

Under the guidance of a board certified plastic surgeon, your personal desires and needs can be addressed. Together, the two of you can decide which procedure, whether liposuction or CoolSculpting, is right for you.

When Deciding on Liposuction or CoolSculpting, Remember:

  • Liposuction and CoolSculpting do not replace healthy diet and exercise. These will also be necessary to maintain your results.
  • Best results with either procedure will come of having taken a 360-degree approach to treatment. If you only treat one small area with either procedure, the body will not maintain its shape as you gain and lose weight over the course of your life. If you treat areas completely with either technology your new shape will remain consistent as you shrink and grow over time.
  • Gaining weight after either treatment can mean the remaining fat cells will expand, creating future bulges.
  • Liposuction and CoolSculpting do not address loose skin. After treatment, these sagging areas may become more pronounced, requiring a surgical procedure, such as the Tummy Tuck or Body Lift, to tighten tissues.
  • Liposuction should only be performed by a board certified plastic surgeon.
  • CoolSculpting should always be performed by a licensed professional working under the supervision of a board certified surgeon.
  • You must have reasonable expectations for either procedure. This is the only way to ensure satisfactory results.

Dr. Paul Vitenas is a board certified plastic surgeon with over 25 years of body sculpting experience. He has been performing liposuction for decades and has perfected his technique to provide the safest and most effective procedures available. Dr. Vitenas’ state-of-the-art facility includes his own surgical suites, allowing liposuction to be performed steps away from his office. Dr. Vitenas is also proud to be one of the only surgeons to offer his patients not one, but two CoolSculpting machines. This allows two separate areas to be treated during a single, one-hour session.

Contact Vitenas Cosmetic Surgery to find out more about liposuction or CoolSculpting. Consultations with Dr. Vitenas are always valuable, and can be scheduled in person, as well as online for our out-of-town guests. Dr. Vitenas welcomes you to stop by the brand-new, contemporary office, located at 4208 Richmond Avenue, for a personal tour of the facility.