Research on mechanism
Lipolysis procedures attempt to "dissolve" fat cells by nonsurgical means. A number of methods have been attempted, including the use of laser, ultrasound, and radio frequency current. Popsicle panniculitis is a dermatologic condition that shows that exposure to low temperatures can selectively damage subcutaneous fat while leaving skin intact. Based on the premise that fat cells are more easily damaged by cooling than skin cells, cryolipolysis was developed to apply low temperatures to tissue via thermal conduction. In order to avoid frostbite, a specific temperature level and exposure are determined, such as 60 minutes at −5 °C (23 °F).
Initial studies to establish cryolipolysis methods were performed on pigs. While the process is not fully understood, it appears that fatty tissue that is cooled below body temperature, but above freezing, undergoes localized cell death followed by a local inflammatory response called local panniculitis that gradually over the course of several months results in a reduction of the fatty tissue layer. When exposed to cold, the body's usual response is to restrict circulation to keep the core of the body at the correct temperature.