CoolSculpting vs. Liposuction: Which one is more effective?


There are a number of medical procedures designed to remove unwanted fat from your body. The fat cells you have are the same fat cells you were born with. Each cell expands or contracts based on the excess calories your body takes in and doesn’t consume. So the complete removal of fat cells means that area of the body will no longer expand and contract as it once did (however, if you’re looking to maintain your desired physical appearance you should still follow a healthy diet and exercise routine). Two of the more commonly used forms of removing fat cells from your body are CoolSculpting and liposuction. Each offers a number of benefits, but depending on your desired needs one may prove more effective for you. Here’s what you need to know when considering CoolSculpting vs. liposuction prior to visiting your plastic surgeon.

CoolSculpting vs. Liposuction: the Similarities

CoolSculpting and liposuction are similar in that they both remove fat cells from your body, albeit in different ways. These two procedures are more closely aligned than with a tummy tuck, which is more the surgical removal of unwanted skin, some fat on the lower abdomen, and tightening the abdominal muscles.

During both CoolSculpting and liposuction, areas of unwanted fat are specifically measured, assessed and targeted for removal.  These fat cells are addressed (either with suction as with liposuction, or with controlled cooling as with CoolSculpting), causing permanent change to the fat cells in that area of the body.

Time Requirements and Costs

When considering CoolSculpting vs. liposuction, you’ll likely want to know how long it will take and the eventual costs. Both procedures are outpatient, but have some pros and consLiposuction will require some downtime & recovery, as it is a surgical procedure that requires the use of general anesthesia.  However, recovery is often about a week or two and you may go home from surgery the same day. CoolSculpting, however, is done in your doctor’s office and has minimal downtime – you can even go back to work or even exercise right after your treatment.

Although CoolSculpting is convenient – the procedure can take anywhere from one to a few hours depending on the areas being treated –  you will probably need to schedule a handful of sessions to get optimal results.  Multiple treatments (often about 2 to 4 per area) spread out over the course of a few weeks is most common for our patients. With liposuction, the procedure will last anywhere from 1 to a few hours, but it’s less likely you will need to be treated more than once (unless you need a touchup which is rare and wouldn’t be performed until approximately a year after your initial procedure).

As for the cost, it depends on a number of factors so you’ll need to talk with your doctor for more accurate cost assessments. As of 2018, the average cost for liposuction was $3,500 per area (according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons). Of course, the actual cost will depend on the area of your body you’re having addressed, how much time that will require, whether anesthesia is required, facility costs, and if you’re having multiple areas performed.

With CoolSculpting, it will depend on the area which is being addressed and the number of necessary visits. Usually, the cost will end up somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000, although again this is a rough estimate that can vary from provider to provider (so the total cost is relatively similar to that of liposuction).

Differences Between CoolSculpting vs. Liposuction

There are some very specific differences between CoolSculpting and liposuction. For starters, CoolSculpting is noninvasive – meaning everything happens on the outside of your body – whereas liposuction is invasive and requires entering the body via incisions.

With liposuction, your plastic surgeon will make tiny cuts orincisions on your body and insert a tube called a “cannula”to suck out the fat.  This process is sometimes assisted by ultrasound or other vibration to help break up the fat and make it easier to remove.  Bruising and swelling afterwards is common, but subsides within a week or two, sometimes sooner.

With CoolSculpting, a cooling device is attached to the pre-measured fatty area on your body.  The fat is sucked into the applicator head of the device like a vacuum head and cooled down to a specific temperature that freezes the fat cells.  Over the course of 60 to 90 days, your body breaks down and disposes of the frozen fat cells via your own waste.  Outside of some very short-term bruising and possible skin sensitivity for a few weeks following the procedure, CoolSculpting is quite comfortable and doesn’t require much downtime.

One of the other main differences between liposuction and CoolSculpting is the volume of fat that can be targeted in one session.  For instance, liposuction surgery allows a surgeon to remove a large volume of fat in one surgery – sometimes multiple liters equaling many pounds of fat.  However, CoolSculpting is only able to reduce a fatty area by up to %25 of its size at a time, meaning if you have a really large area, it may take you numerous sessions to get all the fat that you want gone.

coolsculpting vs. liposuction

Real Charlotte Plastic Surgery Liposuction Patient Results

liposuction vs tummy tuck

Real Charlotte Plastic Surgery CoolSculpting Patient Results

When to Expect Results

Complete results are not immediately apparent for either of these procedures, because healing takes time.  And while you’re in the healing-process, you may have swelling or bruising that skews the appearance of your results, so patience is key.  With CoolSculpting, the fat will need to be metabolized and flushed out by the body naturally, so this can take anywhere from weeks to months to see. Similarly, swelling can take a while to subside with liposuction too, so again you may not see your full results for a few weeks to a month or more.

Selecting One Procedure Over the Other

Both procedures deliver similar results, but have different ways of going about achieving those results. As mentioned earlier, downtime, recovery limitations, and the amount of fat you want removed in one session (or multiple sessions as with CoolSculpting) may be a deciding factor.  One of the main things your plastic surgeon with discuss with you is your personal health medical history. For example, if you suffer from cold agglutinin disease, or cryoglobulinemia (a particular blood disorder), CoolSculpting may not be the right option for you.  Similarly, you may not be a candidate for liposuction if you have a blood clotting disease, are pregnant, or have heart problems. We can’t stress enough how extremely important it is to provide a complete medical history to your plastic surgeon when you go in for a consultation. This way, the doctor will not only be able to take your desired results in mind but keep you safe as well.

What’s Right For You?

Both CoolSculpting and Liposuction are effective ways to remove fat cells from your body. However, one will likely prove more beneficial for you than the other, based on your concerns, goals, and your lifestyle. The best way to identify the most effective treatment is to schedule an in-person consultation with one of Charlotte Plastic Surgery’s board-certified plastic surgeons. The plastic surgeon will answer all of your questions while also identifying the most effective procedure for optimal weight loss.