Bye Bye, Batwings: The Rising Trend of CoolSculpting

Middle-aged woman holding a hand with excess fat.

With the warmer weather rapidly approaching, the season for short sleeves is officially here. For many women, the thought of short-sleeved T-shirts, tank tops, or sleeveless summer dresses is upsetting because they are unhappy with the fullness in the upper arm area. But there is some good news.

I have just returned from the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery’s Annual Meeting. It is a fantastic assembly of physicians, scientists, engineers and other laser enthusiasts to discuss the newest and most important advances in the field of laser- and device-based medicine. Of particular interest to me was the discussion of the treatment of unwanted upper arm fat with cryolipolysis, or CoolSculpting. The accumulation of upper arm fat (the so-called batwing) is a concern shared by many women (including yours truly). Genetics, weight gain, increased skin laxity, and age can all contribute to a full upper arm. While surgery can be helpful in some cases, the prolonged recovery and resulting scarring is problematic. Until now, there were few nonsurgical options that could deliver meaningful and reliable improvement to the upper arm.

Cryolipolysis takes advantage of the natural vulnerability of fat cells to freezing temperatures. When fat cells are exposed to very cold temperatures for prolonged periods of time, a natural process of fat cell destruction called apoptosis begins.  Gradually over one to three months, the fat cells “self-destruct” and are gently cleared from the body. And once the fat cells are destroyed, they are gone for good. FDA-cleared for treatment on the abdomen in 2009, multiple hand pieces have been developed over the past several years. To date, physicians had the ability to shrink and improve the contour of the abdomen, flanks, thighs, back fat, and double chin without surgery using the CoolSculpting procedure. And now, as highlighted at the ASLMS meeting, a special hand piece to best treat the upper arms has been introduced. The before and after clinical photos look very promising with most patients seeing significant improvement in the upper arm area without long-term side effects or a long recovery.

Although CoolSculpting for the upper arms is an exciting development, similar to all cosmetic procedures, not everyone will be a good candidate for treatment. The amount and location of the fat, skin quality, and other anatomic factors need to be considered. It is important to have a thorough evaluation by your physician to determine if CoolSculpting can be helpful for you.