Fat Transfer

Fat transfer, also called fat grafting, is the process of removing fat from one are of the body to an area that needs to be filled in or plumped up.

What areas of the body can benefit from fat transfer?

Fat cells can be harvested from any area with excess fat. The most common donor sites for autologous fat transfers are the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks.

Fat is harvested with liposuction, gently concentrated using a centrifuge, and re-injected into areas to be filled in. This can include any area of the face such as the tear troughs, nasolabial folds (smile lines), midface, cheeks, and lips, just to name a few. One of the benefits of using the patient’s own fat cells is a significant reduction in the likelihood of an allergic reaction, rejection, or infection since the immune system will recognize the grafted tissue as its own. Also, autologous fat transfers may be permanent where most fillers usually are temporary.

How is fat transfer surgery done?

For most fat transfer procedures, surgery is performed using local anesthetic and IV sedation to keep the patient comfortable. The procedure generally takes 1 to 2 hours and is performed in an operating room. Even though fat transfers can be done as an isolated procedure, they most often are combined with another surgical procedure such as facelift, endoscopic browlift, blepharoplasty, or rhinoplasty.

The fat is harvested using the liposuction technique that is determined to be the best for the area being harvested. Incisions are very small and are typically hidden in the body’s natural creases or within the hairline. Once removed, the fat cells are purified and then injected into the areas that need to be filled in. It may take as much as a week for new capillaries to grow in and supply the newly injected fat with blood. During that time of blood vessel ingrowth, some of the fat will die (sometimes up to half of the injected fat). For that reason, your surgeon will usually overfill the area in anticipation of some fat resorption.

Recovery to the point of returning to normal activity takes 1 to 3 weeks, although bruising and swelling may remain for up to 6 weeks. It may be 2 months or more until the full effect of the procedure can be seen.

Who is a good candidate for fat transfer surgery?

A good candidate for fat transfer surgery will be within 30% of their ideal weight, non-smoker, with no underlying health issues. He or she will have good skin tone and at least one area that will benefit from some “spot reduction” as a fat donor site.

If you would like to consult with a surgeon and see if fat transfer surgery is right for you, call and schedule an appointment.