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Home » Understanding the Risks and Side Effects of Fat Freezing

Understanding the Risks and Side Effects of Fat Freezing

Fat freezing, also known as cryolipolysis, is a popular non-surgical cosmetic procedure that aims to reduce localized fat deposits on the body. During the procedure, the targeted area – commonly the abdomen, thighs, flanks or back – is exposed to cold temperatures in order to eliminate fat cells. While fat freezing is considered a safe and effective way to sculpt and contour the body when performed by a licensed professional, there are some potential side effects to be aware of.

The most common side effects of fat freezing are minor and temporary. Many patients experience redness, swelling, bruising, cramping or aching in the treated area in the hours and days following the procedure. This is part of the body’s natural inflammatory response to the cold and these side effects typically resolve within a week or two. Numbness and altered sensations of the skin are also fairly common and usually dissipate within a few weeks after treatment. As the fat cells die off and are eliminated from the body, some patients note bloating and swelling in the treated area that subsides as the fat reduction becomes apparent in the weeks following.

While rare, there are some more serious risks associated with fat freezing that patients should be made aware of. Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia is an unusual side effect that can cause the fat cells in the targeted area to grow larger rather than shrink over the months after treatment. This occurs in less than 1 percent of patients but can cause visually enlarged localized bulges of hardened fat. If this side effect occurs, surgical intervention may be required to correct it. Patient selection and proper applicator placement helps reduce the risk of this complication.

Nerve injuries resulting in pain, numbness or tingling that lasts several months or longer have also been reported after fat freezing, although these are very uncommon. Some patients experience hyperpigmentation or frost bite-like blisters on the skin surface following treatment. Adherence to appropriate protocols can help prevent these adverse effects. Neglecting to keep the treated area protected from sun exposure or mechanical friction/trauma in the days after the procedure can also increase the likelihood of blistering.

As with any medical treatment, there are some individuals who may be at higher risk for complications from fat freezing. Those with cryoglobulinemia or paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria – disorders that make people hypersensitive to cold temperatures – should avoid this procedure. People with cardiovascular conditions may need additional screening to determine if their circulation or blood pressure could be negatively impacted by exposure to the cold. Fat freezing is also not recommended for those with severely diabetes or individuals who are significantly immunocompromised, such as chemotherapy patients.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should refrain from fat freezing. The impacts of cold exposure on the fetus or babies who consume breastmilk are still unknown. Patients who suffer from chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia may experience heightened pain or sensitivity after treatment. Individuals who drink alcohol habitually may be at greater risk for nerve damage from fat freezing due to alcohol’s neurotoxic effects.

It’s important to have an in-depth consultation with a knowledgeable provider before undertaking any fat freezing procedures so that potential risks, side effects and complications can be reviewed and mitigated. Understanding how to choose an appropriate applicator size, place the device safely and minimize exposure risks is key to getting optimal results from fat reduction treatment while avoiding lasting damage to the skin, nerves or fat cells. Following all pre and post-treatment instructions can also help reduce the likelihood of side effects of fat freezing.

With proper patient selection, technique and care, fat freezing side effects tend to be mild and temporary in nature. While more serious risks do exist in rare cases, they can often be avoided by choosing an experienced, reputable provider to perform the procedures. Staying informed as a cosmetic patient and setting appropriate expectations is key to having a safe, effective fat freezing experience with aesthetic enhancements that satisfy.