Both CoolSculpting and liposuction are popular here at Portland Plastic Surgery for their notable effectiveness at reducing unwanted fat. Often, our patients ask if 1 or the other is universally considered “better.” In my experience, the answer depends on whom you ask—and what is being treated. Let’s break it down, question by question, so you can discover which option is better for your specific needs.
- How does each procedure work? When it comes to being straightforward, it doesn’t get much better than liposuction. With the patient under anesthesia (general or local with sedation, depending on the area being treated), the surgeon makes a small incision on the treatment area. He or she then uses a cannula—a long, thin tube—to separate and loosen unwanted fat before suctioning it away with the same tube. On the other hand, CoolSculpting is a nonsurgical procedure that freezes fat cells using a special device that’s applied to the outside of the skin. Once the fat cells are frozen, they die, and the body filters them away.
- Who is a good candidate? Both procedures have some overlap in candidacy. Both procedures require candidates to be in overall good health and not significantly overweight. Neither CoolSculpting nor liposuction is intended to be a weight-loss procedure. Instead, they are both effective for treating isolated areas of unwanted fat. Because CoolSculpting is nonsurgical, it may be better suited to patients who have specific medical conditions that make them ineligible for elective surgery. On the other hand, liposuction can treat some areas of the body that CoolSculpting can’t.
- What are the advantages? These 2 treatments rival each other in both convenience and versatility. Nonsurgical CoolSculpting certainly wins the convenience contest. Completely non-invasive and free of downtime, CoolSculpting is the preferred choice for busy people who want to reduce very specific areas of fat. Although CoolSculpting dominates in convenience, liposuction wins in versatility. This technique can be used almost anywhere on the body.
- Are there any risks? CoolSculpting carries fewer risks than liposuction simply because it isn’t surgery. Some patients report lingering discomfort after the treatment, but it typically goes away by itself within a few days. Liposuction carries the same risks associated with any elective surgery, such as bleeding, swelling, and infection. However, if you choose a qualified plastic surgeon for either procedure, your risks are minimized.
- What’s recovery like? Recuperation after CoolSculpting is minimal. In fact, there’s no medically required downtime, and patients can return to their usual activities immediately, although some lingering discomfort is expected. Liposuction can require between several days and 1 week of rest at home, with reduced activity for several weeks thereafter.
- What results can patients expect? Liposuction creates significant results by both reducing the amount of unwanted fat in a given area and re-shaping the remaining fat for an attractive contour that complements the rest of your body. While CoolSculpting can also create good results, the effects won’t be as deep or significant as those of liposuction. Two CoolSculpting treatments may be required for an optimal outcome.