How is a fat transfer procedure performed?
Your surgeon will “harvest” fat from one part of your body, wash and purify it, and then use specially designed needles to reinject it into the areas that need augmentation. Your surgeon may need to repeat the fat grafting procedure several times to achieve your desired result.
Fat grafting can be explained as a three-stage process: (1) harvesting, (2) purification and transfer, and (3) placement.
- You and your surgeon will select the site(s) for fat removal.
- Your surgeon will inject the region with a local anesthetic then make a small incision in the fat removal area.
- Using a sterile technique, your surgeon inserts a cannula connected to a syringe to carefully extract fat.
Purification and Transfer
- After obtaining enough fat from the donor area, your surgeon will process the fat and prepare the fat cells for the transfer.
- To purify the fat cells, your surgeon may need to use a centrifuge to spin the fat or a filtration process to remove impurities.
- Your surgeon then puts the processed fat cells into small syringes that they will use for the fat injection.
- Your surgeon prepares the receiving area.
- Your surgeon will insert a needle or cannula into the incision point of the site to be augmented.
- Your surgeon usually will pass the injection needle in and out of the augment areas multiple times. Each time the needle or cannula is withdrawn, a line of fatty tissue parcels is carefully deposited in natural tissue planes.
- Your surgeon will repeat this process until reaching your desired results, creating a grid of grafted fat.
- Some surgeons recommend massaging the grafted areas to create a satisfactory contour. Others rely on the placement technique to create the appropriate contour.
- The surgeon will likely place a dressing or bandage over the grafted area.
What are my fat transfer options?
There are several variables to consider with fat transfer procedures. The options your aesthetic plastic surgeon will discuss with you are:
- Which areas will benefit from fat transfer?
- Which areas are best for fat removal?
- Are other procedures are appropriate?
Below are some common fat grafting procedures. Your board-certified aesthetic plastic surgeon will help you determine what procedure or combination of procedures are best for you based on your body type and aesthetic goals.
Facial Fat Transfer
If you have facial creases, such as laugh lines, smile lines, and crow’s-feet, your surgeon can remove fat from your abdomen, thighs, or other areas and inject it into your face. Acne scars and sunken areas of the face, lips, and cheeks can also be filled in. Your plastic surgeon can even use grafted fat to minimize lines between your nose and mouth, correct skin depressions or indentations and minimize forehead wrinkles. (see facial rejuvenation)
If you want bigger lips but are looking for a more permanent solution than fillers and more natural results than implants, your surgeon can remove fat from your abdomen, thighs, or other areas and inject it into your lips. (see lip enhancement)
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 is not for you. The challenge with only using fat for breast enhancement is getting enough fat to predictably “take.” (see breast augmentation)
Breast Implants Plus Fat Grafting
If your breast shape needs optimizing during a breast implant procedure, fat grafting is an effective method for optimizing the shape. If you have residual breast irregularities after undergoing breast augmentation with implants, your surgeon can fill the irregularities with fat to produce a smooth contour and an optimal shape. (see breast augmentation)
Breast Reconstruction With Fat Grafting
If you have breast defects following lumpectomy for breast cancer, fat grafting is an effective method for filling 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. (see breast reconstruction)
Buttock Augmentation With Fat Grafting
Many people who desire a fuller, more rounded buttock will use autologous fat transfer to provide a more curvaceous buttock without the use of an implant. Liposuction is commonly used to both sculpt the surrounding area and collect the autologous fat to be injected. (see buttock augmentation)
Hand Rejuvenation With Fat Grafting
Fat grafting into your hands is effective for “plumping up” wrinkled areas, covering underlying vessels and tendons, and improving your skin’s quality over time. (see hand rejuvenation).