Health Team

FDA approves fat-freezing procedure

Posted February 7, 2011 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated February 7, 2011 6:48 p.m. EST

— The first place people seem to gain weight and the last place they lose it is around their waist. Even with diet and exercise, the tummy roll and love handles often stick around.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a procedure that claims to freeze off the fat.

Personal trainer Donna Attanasio works out nearly every day and tries to eat well, but she couldn’t get rid of her stomach fat.

“My lower abs just don’t feel as tight. (I have) a little bit of pooch from having three children, one C-section,” she said.

Attanasio tried Zeltiq, a fat-reduction treatment that takes one hour and freezes the fat while leaving muscles and skin tissue unharmed.

“We are damaging the fat cells. Within two or three days after the treatment, the fat cells are shown to disintegrate,” said Dr. Mitchell Chasin, with the Reflections Center for Skin & Body in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

During the next two to four months, the body then naturally eliminates those cells. There are no needles and no surgery. Although it looks painful, it doesn’t hurt, and patients can get back to their normal lives right away.

“It was easy. It wasn’t painful. It was cold,” Attanasio said.

Zeltiq costs less than traditional liposuction, but is still not cheap. It ranges from $750 to $1,500 per treatment, and insurance won't cover it, because it’s considered a cosmetic procedure.

The treatment is not for everyone. It’s designed for people who have a small amount of stubborn fat, despite living a healthy lifestyle.

“We're not talking about someone who is obese. We're talking about someone that's in good shape but has unwanted fat that they want to remove,” Chasin said.

Two months after treatment, Attanasio’s results were not dramatic, but she says worth it.

“I feel better in my clothing. I didn't change in size, but I definitely feel different in my clothing,” she said.

Doctors say the procedure removes about 20 percent of the fat it's treating. Patients who want more fat reduction can repeat the treatment about two months later.