Coolsculpting vs. Liposuction – Which One Is Better?

When is something too good to be true?  Is there really a free lunch out there?  Or if it sounds too good to be true, is that because it is?

Here you go- Coolsculpting is real.  Coolsculpting for fat reduction is almost as amazing as Botox for preventing wrinkles!   Both of technologies caused tectonic changes in cosmetic medicine/surgery.  Coolsculpting really destroys fat and it is permanent.  I know, it’s crazy that it works.  Yes, there are a couple other completely non-invasive technologies out there now that do similar things, but nothing else has the track record, longevity, and clinical studies to back it up like Coolsculpting does.

So everyone can go get Coolsculpting now and avoid liposuction, right?  Not so fast.  Coolsculpting is great technology, but it is NOT interchangeable with liposuction.  Why?  Let’s do a little “compare and contrast” to look at just a few of the similarities and then differences.

Similarities between Coolsculpting and Liposuction

  1. Permanent– Both technologies are permanent.  Coolsculpting actually makes cells turn on genes that kill themselves in response to a certain amount of coldness for a certain length of time.  Liposuction just sucks the fat tissue out into a canister.  Either way, you can’t grow new fat cells once you’re born.  Our cells get bigger and smaller with extra calories, but they don’t move or reproduce.  So if you remove cells from a target area, that area will have fewer storage units to store extra energy so not as much new fat thickness will grow in that area anymore.
  2. Treat target areas– Both technologies can only treat target areas.  You can’t “freeze” an entire body and you can’t suction an entire body either.  Both techniques require specific treatment areas (love handles, saddlebags, lower tummy, inner thigs, etc.)
  3. Subcutaneous fat only.      Neither technique can treat INTRA-abdominal (or visceral fat).  The fat inside the abdomen (the fat that makes a tight “beer belly” round shape cannot be treated safely by any technique.  We can only treat the fat under your skin that you can grab or pinch.
  4. Not a treatment for obesity or a means of weight loss–   We can only treat body AREAS, not a whole body.  Neither technology replaces diet and exercise.

Differences Between Coolsculpting and Liposuction

  1. Recovery- Coolsculpting areas can be tender for a day or two, but usually they are numb and get tingly with feels like electrical shocks as the nerves wake up.  Lipo is similar except you are more likely to be tender and bruised afterward- especially if large areas are done.  Also, you might be out of work for a couple days to a week if a large amount of liposuction is done.  In contrast,  Coolsculpting has really NO DOWNTIME- and THAT is it’s biggest benefit.
  2. Anesthesia– Coolsculpting requires no anesthesia or pain medicine.  Lipo is done either with oral sedation for very small areas, or more commonly with IV sedation or general anesthesia for bigger procedures
  3. Size of areas- Areas for coolsculpting must be relatively small.  The “heads” or attachments that fit on your skin are all smaller than about 2 of your hands put beside each other.  Most are much smaller.  Areas bigger than that (like and entire tummy) might require 3 or 4 locations all to be done (3 or 4 hours) Liposuction can be done to any size area in about the same amount of time.
  4. Multiple treatments- Lipo is done in 1 treatment, but this is rare for Coolsculpting.  Some areas of fat are thick enough that 2 or even 3 treatments might be needed.
  5. Cost- As you probably figured from the previous differences, doing multiple Coolsculpting treatments of larger areas can get extremely expensive.  4 areas on an abdomen for 3 sessions might be several thousand dollars.  Lipo to that abdomen is likely half that.  Lipo would also be a single treatment to get the final result faster.
  6. Expectations/guarantee- Coolsculpting gives different results in different people.  I examine and clear patients to make sure they are appropriate candidates for Coolsculpting, BUT even the best candidates can have unimpressive outcomes, so there can be no guarantee of results or satisfaction.  That is just something that needs to be accepted with Coolsculpting.  O n the other hand, the reduction of fat with liposuction is predictable because the fat goes right out the tube to the canister- and we even take pictures to document exactly how much was removed.

Which Is Better, Coolsculpting or Liposuction?

Hopefully you can see that it depends on the patient and the clinical as well as social situation.  If someone has relatively small and well-defined areas of fat, Coolsculpting as an amazing way to get improvements with no surgery, no downtime, and it might save money in some circumstances.  But if a patient has many areas, has larger/thick areas of fat concerns, wants to be absolutely sure it will work, wants it fixed at once, and can find a week of downtime, then Lipo is likely that person’s best and less expensive choice.