New technique freezes away fat



Posted on November 9, 2009 at 4:46 PM

DALLAS — Scrubs disguise what 28-year old Nancy Arias doesn't want you see.

"I like to wear scrubs because it hides the problem areas," says Arias, "You don't see it as much as when you wear your regular clothes — where you come out looking like a muffin."

Arias blames that muffin — or "cupcake top," as she prefers — on the birth of her daughter two years ago.

She's hoping to get rid of it, with a cold drink, chair massage, magazine, and a device stuck to her belly called Zeltiq.

"I'm going to apply this to just where she has this little extra bit of fat on her tummy," explained Stephanie Holden, a nurse at the EpiCentre in Dallas. "It's going to suck the fat up in between these two cold plates. And then it will feel very cold."

Liposuction is the current gold standard for fat removal. But it involves potentially risky and expensive surgery.

Zeltiq is non-invasive. It works by freezing flab.

Science show fat cells are vulnerable to cold. Experts say once frozen, they start to break down.

"And then over time, it programs actually a cell death," explained Dr. Jay Burns, a longtime Dallas plastic surgeon.  "They just begin to atrophy."

Burns, who sits on Zeltiq's advisory board, says that in his opinion, the device works better than other non-invasive procedures he has tried.

"It doesn't just explode the cells like a lot of heat and ultrasound and laser devices, and release all that cholesterol, triglycerides into the system," he said. "Over a period of months, those cells just die and go away."

Zeltiq is not FDA-approved in the U.S. for fat reduction. The technology is so new, doctors don't have enough widespread experience to determine exactly how well it works — or how long results last.

Before and after pictures from Europe, where the device is approved,  show about a 25 percent reduction in fat — ot as much as liposuction.

Unlike liposuction, with Zeltiq there is no pain, no downtime, and the only risks are bruising and pigment loss. A protective barrier over the fat being treated protects against frostbite.

A single treatment costs about $1,000.

"It's very convenient," said Nancy Arias, who returned to work directly after a lunch-hour treatment.

Though she won't see results for two to four months, Arias is hopeful she won't have to hide under scrubs much longer.