Fat Grafting (Fat Transfer or Fat Injection)
A fat injection procedure transfers fat from areas in which you have excess fat, such as the abdomen, and injects it into areas that may be lacking in volume, such as your face, hands, breasts or buttocks. This safe, long-lasting if not permanent, well-tolerated procedure produces natural-looking results. Every year, thousands of people undergo successful fat grafting and are pleased with the results.
When to Consider Fat Transfer
- If you have facial areas that appear sunken and have last volume
- If you desire more permanent correction than is provided by temporary fillers
- If you desire a more cost effective filler
- If you wish to improve your body contour, revise scars, fill depressions and rejuvenate your hands and face
- For use in breast reconstruction, to fill in contour irregularities or hide obvious signs of breast implants, to heal signs of radiation
The Pros and Cons Of Fat Injections
- Autologous fat (from your own body), as opposed to dermal fillers, replaces “like with like,” reducing the chance of allergic reactions to foreign substances.
- There is an unlimited supply
- Fat transfer results are natural, long lasting and safe.
- Fat transfer is a noninvasive method for achieving facial rejuvenation.
- It is time consuming to prepare fat tissue before transferring it, compared to dermal fillers, which are prepackaged.
- Though longer lasting than dermal fillers, fat transfer costs more. However the long-term cost is less.
- For augmentation, you may require multiple sessions to achieve your desired breast or buttock size.
These are the top three pros and cons to consider when thinking of fat transfer. If you wish to focus on what is unique to you, please consult with Dr. Jensen.
Am I a good candidate for a fat transfer?
The purpose of fat grafting is to augment or fill in volume-deficient areas. Commonly treated areas include the hands, face (including the lips), depressions in the skin (following liposuction and scarring) and the breast and buttock (for augmentation). Of course, you must have donor sites from which fat can be taken. It is important that you do not have any serious medical conditions
Facial fat transfer: If you have signs of facial aging, such as laugh lines, smile lines, and crow’s-feet, fat can be removed from your abdomen, thighs, or other areas and be injected into your face. Acne scars and sunken areas of the face, temples, lips, and cheeks can also be filled in. Dr. Jensen can even use grafted fat to minimize lines between your nose and mouth, correct skin depressions or indentations and minimize sunken eyes.
Breast augmentation: If you desire a modest increase in breast size, you are a good candidate for fat grafting to the breast, but your breasts should already have a nice shape and good skin tone. If you have poor skin, sagging breasts, or want a significant increase in breast size, breast augmentation with fat transfer will not give you the desired results. The problem with only using fat for breast enhancement lies in getting large volumes of fat to predictably “take.”
Breast implants plus fat grafting: If your breast shape needs additional help during a breast implant procedure, fat grafting can be useful. If you have residual breast irregularities or ripples after undergoing breast augmentation with implants, the irregularities can be filled in with fat to produce a smooth contour and an optimal shape.
Breast reconstruction with fat grafting: If you have breast defects following lumpectomy and radiation for breast cancer, fat grafting is an effective method for filling in these defects. Fat grafting is also an option for total breast reconstruction following mastectomy; however, to achieve sufficient breast volume, this is usually a multistage process that requires at least two to four sequential fat grafting procedures along with the use of the BRAVA bra.
Buttock augmentation with fat grafting: Many people who desire a fuller, more rounded buttock will opt for the “Brazilian butt lift,” which uses fat grafting to provide a more rounded buttock without the use of an implant. Liposuction is used to both sculpt the surrounding area and collect the autologous fat to be injected.
Hand rejuvenation with fat grafting: Fat grafting the hands is effective for adding volume, smoothing out wrinkled areas, covering underlying vessels and tendons and improving the quality of your skin over time.
If you are in good health, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate for this procedure.
How is a fat transfer procedure performed?
Fat is harvested from one part of your body, centrifuged, and then carefully reinjected with specially designed needles into the areas that need enhancement. It may be necessary to repeat the fat grafting procedure few times to achieve the desired result. Fat grafting can be explained as a three-stage process: (1) harvesting (2) purification and transfer and (3) placement.
Harvesting: You and Dr. Jensen will select a site for fat removal and will inject it with a local anesthetic. Dr. Jensen will then create a small incision in the area for fat harvest and, using a sterile technique, insert a cannula connected to a syringe to carefully extract fat (liposuction).
Purification and transfer: Once enough fat is obtained from the donor area, Dr. Jensen’s staff will process it to prepare the fat cells for transfer to small syringes that will be used for fat injection. Purification requires the use of a centrifuge to spin the fat to remove impurities.
Placement: The area designated to receive the graft will then be prepared and anesthetized. Dr. Jensen will insert a needle or cannula into the incision point of the site being enhanced. The injection needle is usually passed in and out of the areas to be augmented several times. Each time the cannula is withdrawn, a line of fatty tissue globules is carefully deposited in natural tissue planes. This process is repeated until the desired correction has been achieved, creating a grid of grafted fat.
The goal of Dr. Jensen and the entire staff is to help you achieve the most beautiful and natural looking results, as well as to make your surgical experience as easy and comfortable as possible.
What are my options?
Your own fat may be used to alter your body contour, revise scars, fill depressions created by liposuction or cancer surgery and rejuvenate your hands and face. Common sites for obtaining fat include the abdomen and the flanks (love handles), posterior arms and the hips and inner thighs. The options Dr. Jensen will discuss with you are:
- Which areas will benefit from fat grafting?
- Which areas provide the best fat for grafting?
- Whether any other procedures are appropriate?
- Fat can be harvested from areas like the thighs, flanks and buttocks.
- Fat can then be injected into the eyelids, lips and elsewhere on the face.
What will my incisions and scars be like?
Your only scars may result from liposuction, which is used to harvest fat from the donor site.
- Because liposuction incisions are small, the scars are also very small and are placed in hidden areas. Sometimes depending on the location of fat deposits on your body, the incisions cannot be hidden.
- The amount or degree of scarring depends on your genetic tendencies.
- Most liposuction scars fade and are barely perceptible over time.
- There are two types of marks that can remain on the skin after liposuction. One is a true scar, and the other is known as dyschromia, a dark (hyperpigmented) or light (hypopigmented) spot on the skin.
What can I expect on the day of fat transfer?
Your fat grafting procedure may be performed in our accredited office-based surgical suite.
- The length of your procedure depends on how much fat is removed and the number of liposuction sites. Obviously, you will need much less fat for facial filler than to augment your breasts or buttocks.
- You will receive medications to make you as comfortable as possible. Most commonly, local anesthesia and intravenous sedation are used for patients undergoing fat grafting, although local anesthesia is sometimes desirable.
- For your safety during the operation, various monitors are used to check your heart, blood pressure, pulse and the amount of oxygen and CO2 circulating in your blood.
- Dr. Jensen will follow the surgical plan discussed with you before your fat grafting procedure. Once the procedure has begun, Dr. Jensen may decide to combine various techniques or change a technique to ensure the best result. It is important that you feel comfortable and trust Dr. Jensen to make these decisions.
- After your procedure, you will be taken to our recovery room, where you will continue to be closely monitored by a recovery room nurse. You may be wearing a compression garment at your liposuction site to help reduce post-operative swelling. Many patients state that the area feels sore, as if they underwent a strenuous workout.
You will be permitted to go home after a short observation period under the care of a reliable person.
Ask Dr. Jensen how long it will be before you can return to your normal level of activity and work following this procedure. After surgery, you and your caregiver will receive detailed instructions from the recovery room nurse about your postsurgical care, including information about:
- Compression garments and dressings
- Normal symptoms you should expect
- Any potential signs and symptoms of complications
How will I look and feel immediately following a fat grafting?
Dr. Jensen will advise you how to care for the sites from which fat was extracted. Recovery from fat injections is variable and perception of that recovery is even more highly variable. Here is some general information related to facial fat injections:
- The swelling and bruising during the first week may be significant, and you will not be ready to see others socially or professionally.
- In the second week the bruising usually resolves, but you will still have swelling. You can wear makeup to hide the signs of surgery.
- There is great improvement in most cases between the seventh and tenth days, but you may still not be ready to go out in public. Most people who have very little time off from work take one week off, including two flanking weekends. Those who can afford two weeks off or more are even better positioned to return to work.
- By the third week you will usually begin to look more like yourself. Careful application of makeup will be helpful in camouflaging any residual signs of bruising.
- Once the swelling recedes, you will be able to appreciate the changes, but subtle swelling may persist for up to five weeks.
You can expect the areas to which the fat was transferred to appear softer and fuller, giving you a refreshed and rejuvenated look. Most people notice an improvement in skin texture.
- The survival of the fat and longevity of the results depend on the surgeon’s skills, how the fat was harvested and purified, and how and where it was injected. To be performed successfully, fat grafting requires a surgeon with highly developed skills based on experience and knowledge of the technique.
- A process called micro fat grafting, is the best way to ensure that the highest percentage of grafted fat will take.
- When done successfully, the injected fat establishes a new blood supply from your body and receives the nourishment it needs for survival. When this happens, results can and often are permanent; however, there is usually a percentage of fat that does not take, which is why touchup procedures are sometimes necessary.
Maintain a relationship with Dr. Jensen
For safety, as well as the most beautiful and healthy outcome, it’s important to return to our office for follow-up evaluation at prescribed times and whenever you have any questions about your fat transfer healing and results.
Fortunately, significant complications from fat grafting are extremely rare. This procedure is usually performed without any major complications.
The risks in most surgeries are similar. Some of the potential complications of all surgeries are:
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia
- Hematoma or seroma (an accumulation of blood or fluid under the skin that may require removal)
- Loss of sensation
- Allergic reactions
- Damage to underlying structures
- Unsatisfactory results that may necessitate additional procedures
You can help minimize certain risks by following the advice and instructions of Dr. Jensen and his staff, both before and after your fat transfer.