ST. LOUIS - A cosmetic procedure is being compared to liposuction without the surgery or down-time.
It's called CoolSculpting, and some doctors are having success getting rid of their patient's stubborn fat by freezing it away.
Kristin Green just delivered her second child eight months ago. She's back in shape, but wants to see a flatter stomach. She settled on a procedure called CoolSculpting.
A machine hooked to a device that looks like a vacuum cleaner head sucks in her skin, and starts to cool it.
"Oh my goodness, I was expecting so much more," said Green, as she has the device attached to her stomach. "This isn't bad."
The device sucks in muffin tops, saddle bags, belly pooch, and love handles.
"Upper back, kind of that bra roll area people hate," said Dr. Marissa Tenenbaum, a plastic surgeon with West County Plastic Surgeons of Washington University School of Medicine.
The CoolSculpting device then cools the tissue, freezing water in fat cells, effectively killing them.
"It's a controlled death," said Dr. Tenenbaum, "something called apoptosis. Then your body gets rid of that fat over time."
That's right. Results aren't instantaneous. They usually take two to six months.
Once patients are hooked up, the treatment takes about an hour. Green is going to spend the time on her iPhone. Patients have been known to bring in their iPads or Kindles. Some patients even ask that the lights be turned off so they can take a nap.
"For the first five days, I had pretty intense bruising," said Lisa Thornton, a CoolSculpting patient.
Thornton interviewed two doctors before finally committing. She had her first treatment March 5.
"I could start seeing things within two weeks" said Thornton, of her results. "Just how my clothes were fitting, I can definitely tell a difference."
Most patients need two to three treatments before they see a big difference. And before you imagine yourself relaxing as you lose weight, using cold to battle the bulge is definitely for a specific patient.
"Someone who is not terribly overweight," said Dr. Tenenbaum, "but has one or two problem areas. It's not a weight loss procedure. You're not going to lose 20 pounds. It's a contouring procedure similar to liposuction."
One hour later, the device is removed and Green gets the post-treatment massage. There's no downtime, no recovery period. She can get a second treatment right away.
"I feel good. It didn't hurt as bad as I had anticipated," said Green.
A company called Zeltiq makes the device. It wouldn't tell us how cold the temperature needs to be to kill fat cells because the information is proprietary.
The question everyone asks is how much does it cost? One treatment is $1,5000. A package of ten treatments is $5,500. No, it is not covered by insurance.
To learn more, visit Dr. Tenenbaum's website.
Other places that offer CoolSculpting treatments include West County Plastic Surgeons of Washington University, Nayak Plastic Surgery, Wildwood Dermatology and Skin Care Center, St. Louis Cosmetic Surgery, and Synergi.