Burn injuries secondary to cryolipolysis: Freezing fat, burning skin.

Dr Lisa Murphy1, Mr David Read1,2, Ms Margaret Brennan1, Mrs Linda Ward2,3, Mrs Kathleen  McDermott2

1Royal Darwin Hospital, Tiwi, Australia, 2National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, Tiwi, Australia, 3Menzies School of Health Research, Tiwi, Australia


Background:The number of Australians seeking cosmetic procedures is increasing each year, particularly non-surgical or minimally invasive cosmetic procedures. One of the newer technologies used to reduce the appearance of fat deposition is cryolipolysis or ‘cool sculpting’; a process designed to cause fat cell necrosis but leave skin unharmed, by cooling soft tissues to 0 to -7 C degrees.
Methods:We present two cases of burns associated with cryolipolysis in female patients seeking fat removal treatment. Both patients received cold thermal burn injuries to their treated areas, one of which was superficial dermal and treated conservatively and one of which was deep dermal and required debridement. A review of the literature surrounding these particular types of injury was performed, which were hand searched for articles reporting complications.
ResultsThe results of the literature search revealed three cases of reported skin necrosis with cryolipolysis use; one do-it-yourself home fat-freezing abdomen skin necrosis, one beauty salon flank cryolipolysis-induced necrosis and one plastic surgery clinic lateral thigh cryolipolysis-induced necrosis.

Discussion: Burn injury or skin necrosis does not appear to be a commonly-reported complication of cryolipolysis and it was not listed among the potential complications on the device’s website in the cases we treated. However, the observation of two such injuries in two months at our unit highlights that these injuries are certainly possible and may be more common than previously thought. Complications of cosmetic procedures; their regulation, monitoring and credentialing are increasingly topical issues as the demand for such procedures increases.


Jennifer is a Set 1 Plastic Surgical Trainee in Victoria. She is dual qualified in both medicine and dentistry. She aims to be involved in preventative programs/initiatives to plastic surgical & burns related injuries.


ANZBA is a not for profit organisation and the peak body for health professionals responsible for the care of the burn injured in Australia and New Zealand. ANZBA encourages higher standards of care through education, performance monitoring and research.

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