Although most people consider fat “the enemy” in their lives, it can often times become an advantage when harvested and reinjected in the face to improve various cosmetic problems. Fat injection has been around for years, but has reemerged due to new technologies and research. There are advantages to using a patient’s own fat for an implant material. It is readily available, is a living tissue, will not be rejected, feels natural and can be replenished. Many surgeons feel that fat contains abundant stem cells which serve to assist rejuvenation.
Fat transfer is used to:
- Increase lip size
- Correct facial folds, laugh lines and wrinkles
- Increase cheekbone size and contour
- Fill in acne or traumatic scars
- Fill in facial defects
The procedure for fat transfer is relatively simple and is performed in the office environment with local or IV sedation. Fat is harvested by liposuction from the abdomen, thigh, or buttock area. The fat is then washed and treated and injected into the face to correct the specific problems. Excess fat may be frozen and reinjected at a later date.
Since fat is a living tissue, it will become part of the body’s natural tissue when transplanted. Some of the fat is digested by the body and often times several injections are performed in the same area before the results are permanent. Although some patients may get a permanent result with a single injection, most patients will need a second or third session to obtain a permanent result.
How Fat Transfer is Performed
The abdomen is infused with a dilute local anesthetic and then the fat is gently harvested.
The fat is then separated from the liquid portion and placed in the injection syringe.
A small puncture is made (in this case for cheek augmentation) and the fat is then injected into the deeper tissues.
This patient above had a facial growth defect from a malignant tumor. Dr. Niamtu treated the patient with several sessions of fat injection.
Injectable facial fillers (Volume, Lyft, Belotero, Restylane and Juvederm) are the most common methods of reinflating the aging face. I also am a huge proponent of cheek implants which is a permanent treatment. Fat transfer is another method of using ones own (and often times plentiful) fat to fill out sagging facial tissues and plump lips. There are pluses and minuses of fat injection and it is less popular than in the past due to advances in filler technology. It is however a viable alternative for various situations and remains in the armamentarium of many cosmetic surgeons. See video below to watch the fat transfer procedure. Warning: this video shows actual surgery and viewer discretion is advised.
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