Fat Transfer (Lipotransfer)

Fat Transfer

Fat transfer uses tissue taken from other parts of your body to restore the shape of areas that have thinned and flattened over the years.

As we age, our faces tend to lose volume. Our cheeks may flatten, our chins grow sharper, and we begin to look older. Age and exercise can produce fat atrophy in the face resulting in a sunken, drawn appearance. The facial rejuvenation procedure of Fat Transfer, allows the surgeon to sculpt and restore the face to its natural, healthy, and youthful appearance by restoring its volume.
Fat transfer has been performed as a means of increasing the facial volume for many years, however with a variability of the results. Continuing research and developments in the procedure have led to a more consistently successful technique that produces a gradual, controlled restoration of the youthful shapes of the face and other parts of the body. With this technique, it is easier to predict the long-term outcome due to grafting process is much more likely to succeed, and fat cells that have survived the grafting process have a lasting presence. The other advantage is that the material or fat transferred is your own and will be well tolerated in the long-term.

Fat transfer consultation

During your consultation, your surgeon will take a general medical history and ask about any medications you are taking. She will also explain how fat transfer works, ask about your goals for the procedure and discuss what you should expect.

What is fat transfer and how is it performed?

During a fat transfer, fat is harvested from another area of the body, such as the abdomen, hips or buttocks, through a gentle suctioning technique. Using a small cannula, the fat is then injected into the face or another body area to rejuvenate the area that is lacking in volume. The fat does not move or shift as it becomes incorporated into living tissue; results are incredibly long-lasting, if not permanent. Despite the minimal invasiveness of this procedure, some post-operative bruising and swelling may occur. This outpatient procedure can be done under either general or local anaesthetic depending on the extent of the area to be treated, and there are no dressings or drains. If performed under local anaesthesia, both the area from which the fat cells are taken and the area into which they are injected will be anaesthetized.

Is Body Fat Transfer Right for Me?

Exercise and maintaining an average weight are the best ways to improve your appearance, but ageing and genetics may, over time, negate the benefits of healthy living. For example, genetics may cause fat to be unevenly distributed. And, beginning in their mid-30s, people tend to start losing volume in specific body areas, including the face and hands. In these scenarios, fat transfers may help.

Body fat transfer candidates should be in good overall health, both physically and emotionally, and have realistic expectations about what the procedure can and can’t do for them. If you are a smoker, you should stop for several weeks before and following your procedure as smoking can slow the healing process, increase your risk of complications and impact negatively on your final cosmetic result. You must also have adequate fat deposits for the graft. Discuss the particular fat transfer procedure that interests you with your plastic surgeon.

What areas can be treated by fat transfer?

Fat transfer is most often used to restore volume to areas of the face, which means that it is often used as an alternative to a facelift procedure. Specific areas can include such facial areas like the cheeks. As the treatment uses the patient’s own fat cells, it means that the body will not break it down like it would with artificial substances like facial filler employed in other procedures. However, some of the fat will still break down over time. Therefore, a larger amount of fat will be taken from another part of the body to make up for this during the initial procedure.  In some cases, the patient may need to return for follow-up procedures. This will not happen in all cases; it varies from person to person.

What are the Risks and Complications of a fat transfer?

Bruising and swelling around the area from where the fat was collected is common after fat transfer. The newly injected area may also be swollen and bruised.

As with any cosmetic surgery procedure, there is a risk of infection, numbness, or nerve damage in both areas of the body. Minor skin discoloration or scarring at the incision points is a possibility.

The most common complication associated with fat transfer is uneven or inconsistent and unsatisfactory results as there is no way to tell how many of the fat cells will survive the treatment. Doctors often over correct the area to allow for this but this in itself can be an adverse side effect.


Further Reading:

Facelift (Rhytidectomy)

British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons

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