Zeltiq: a new technology worth watching

Developed at Massachusetts General Hospital, Zeltiq is a novel fat melting device, which uses the application of controlled cooling to melt fat non-surgically. The idea, known as cryolipolysis, takes advantage of the finding that fat cells freeze before skin cells do. Thus, if the temperature of the tissues can be lowered to just the right point, the fat cells will be lysed, but the overlying skin will be OK.

The gadget that does this is known as “Zeltiq”. And it does seem to work. Each outpatient treatment takes about an hour, and the results take about 3 months to appear. So far, it seems to work best on the abdomen and flank (“love handle”) areas. While the results are not nearly as dramatic as those of liposuction, there are clear improvements seen in the pre and post-procedure treatment photos.

A recent pilot study by Coleman and associates found that Zeltiq treatment gave a reduction of 20.4% at 2 months and 25.5% at 6 months in the thickness of the subcutaneous fat layer, which was measured by ultrasound. Although 9 of 10 patients in this small pilot study complained of temporary numbness in the treated areas, this normalized after 3-4 weeks. Biopsies showed no damage to the nerve fibers, which is an important consideration in any fat reduction treatment, as the insulating membranes around nerve fibers have a high fat content. None of the patients had any skin damage or pigment changes.

While the Zeltiq is not FDA approved as yet for fat reduction, it has received the European “CE” mark.

I give this new technology a “looks promising” rating!

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