NEW ORLEANS - Liposuction used to be the only way to permanently get rid of fat cells and to sculpt an area of the body that would not respond to diet and exercise.

But now there is a new, painless, nonsurgical way to contour the body and get rid of fat that only takes an hour.

Rene' Schultz, 64, is trying something brand new to Southeast Louisiana. It's new technology that doesn't use heat or any internal device to get rid of fat to contour the body.

'It is cold. It is cold. I don't think it was painful. I think it went very easy. It takes about an hour of your time,' said Schultz.

Schultz is one of the first people in the area to try Zeltiq. She's a surgical technician with Dermatologic Surgeon Dr. Bill Coleman, who just got the machine. Zeltiq was recently FDA approved and works by killing fat cells with cool sculpting technology.

'We think it is going to be permanent. The research has been going on about two years now and my colleagues that did the FDA trial in Boston and other cities, have indicated to me that the benefit does go on for a longtime,' explained Dr. Coleman, who has a practice in Metairie and is the editor of the medical journal 'Dermatologic Surgery.'

Here's how it works: First, the doctor marks the area where the machine head will go. Then a special cold patch is put on the treatment area. The Zeltiq head is then put over the patch and is turned on creating suction on the area for an hour.

'I think the main thing is for people to position this in their minds for what it can and can't do. It's a nonsurgical approach which is very appealing to lots of people. You don't have to go through all the mental drama of surgery. But also, it's a modest treatment. It doesn't do as much as liposuction would do,' added Dr. Coleman.

He says for now, mostly abdomens and love handles have been treated. But the technique can be used all over the body. New treatment heads are being developed for arms and thighs. The buttocks is possible for people with loose skin and in studies, males with enlarged breasts have been treated with Zeltiq. But doctors say this is for the fat that is right under the skin. It will not work on the deep fat called VAT (visceral adipose tissue) that surrounds the organs in the belly. It's the kind that has been linked with serious health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

The fat cells are actually being destroyed, not just shrinking like when you lose weight. The fat that spills out of the cells is then metabolized away. A sample of pig fat tissue shows the changes after it has been treated with Zeltiq. The difference will be measured more in inches and the way your clothes fit more than the number on the scale.

'Like liposuction, the fat cell is going away. The difference is, is we can't sculpt precisely the way we can with lipo and also with lipo we can remove as much fat as we think we need to at any given time. This only removes about 20 percent of a typical fat layer, so it needs to be repeated several times to get a visible benefit,' explained Dr. Coleman.

So far studies have shown no long term side effects and the skin is not affected. There are mild short term side effects though, some bruising and some patients stay a little numb for a few weeks. But animal and human studies show that the feelings in the nerves of the skin come back.

'It wasn't sore. You're a little red for the day. It's cold and it is, I think, it is a little bruised this morning but that's me,' said Schultz.

Doctors say it may take three months before you see the full results.

'The patients (across the country) have been modestly pleased. It usually takes about four sessions and about 70 percent of people do report successful results. I think it is all about managing patient expectations, giving the patients realistic expectations and fitting the patient to the technique,' said New Orleans Dermatologist Dr. Mary Lupo.

'We are going to see an evolution in the body contouring market. This is a huge market. We don't have the magic bullet yet. Nothing replaces good diet, exercise, a healthy lifestyle, but I think as long as patients have an understanding that they can get some improvement with this, but it may be not a home run every time, they will be pleased with the results,' said Metairie Dermatologist Dr. Patricia Farris, who is also a spokesperson for the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

You should not have this treatment if you are pregnant or have a condition that causes you to be hypersensitive to the cold.

The cost is $1,500 to treat an area of the body such as both love handles or the abdomen.

Dr. Patricia Farris is no relation to Medical Reporter Meg Farris

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