Transient Alterations of Cutaneous Sensory Nerve Function by Noninvasive Cryolipolysis

J Invest Dermatol. 2015 Nov;135(11):2623-2631. doi: 10.1038/jid.2015.233. Epub 2015 Jun 22.


Cryolipolysis is a noninvasive, skin cooling treatment for local fat reduction that causes prolonged hypoesthesia over the treated area. We tested the hypothesis that cryolipolysis can attenuate nociception of a range of sensory stimuli, including stimuli that evoke itch. The effects of cryolipolysis on sensory phenomena were evaluated by quantitative sensory testing (QST) in 11 healthy subjects over a period of 56 days. Mechanical and thermal pain thresholds were measured on treated and contralateral untreated (control) flanks. Itch duration was evaluated following histamine iontophoresis. Unmyelinated epidermal nerve fiber and myelinated dermal nerve fiber densities were quantified in skin biopsies from six subjects. Cryolipolysis produced a marked decrease in mechanical and thermal pain sensitivity. Hyposensitivity started between two to seven days after cryolipolysis and persisted for at least thirty-five days post treatment. Skin biopsies revealed that cryolipolysis decreased epidermal nerve fiber density, as well as dermal myelinated nerve fiber density, which persisted throughout the study. In conclusion, cryolipolysis causes significant and prolonged decreases in cutaneous sensitivity. Our data suggest that controlled skin cooling to specifically target cutaneous nerve fibers has the potential to be useful for prolonged relief of cutaneous pain and might have a use as a research tool to isolate and study cutaneous itch-sensing nerves in human skin.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cryotherapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lipolysis
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology*
  • Skin / innervation*