What is fat grafting?
Fat grafting, or autologous fat transfer, is a minor surgical procedure in which fat cells are harvested from an area of the body with excess adipose tissue (i.e. stomach, thighs), and transferred to areas with a relative deficiency of adipose tissue, commonly the face. The fat is removed with a cannula similar to traditional liposuction, but with gentler suction to help avoid damage to the fat cells. This can be done under local or general anesthesia depending on patient preference, amount of fat needed, and donor site.
Who is a candidate for for fat grafting?
Any patient who is concerned about the loss of volume in the face associated with the aging process may be a candidate for fat grafting. Patients must be able to come off of blood thinning medications (if taking), and are not prone to severe weight fluctuations. Additionally, very thin or lean individuals may have limited fat for harvesting.
What areas are commonly treated with this procedure?
Some of the most common areas treated with fat grafting include the malar region, tear trough under the eye, lips, and nasolabial folds (smile lines). Other areas that can be treated include hollowed temples, forehead, marionette lines, and peri-oral rhytids (smoker’s lines).
Why fat grafting over traditional dermal fillers?
Fat grafting and dermal fillers both have the ability to treat many of the same areas. Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages. Dermal fillers require less anesthetic (no harvesting), will have less swelling afterwards, and are reversible if needed. Additionally, there has been development of new filler agents for specific areas in the face.
Fat grafting is a permanent solution, and requires only one treatment in the majority of cases. Fat is often softer and gives a more natural appearance (it is replenishing what used to be there). It can be injected at higher volumes for more dramatic results. Additionally, fat grafting can improve the appearance of the overall face by both volume enhancement, and also with the transfer of stem cells and growth factors that we all have within our adipose tissue.
What can I expect after this procedure?
Recovery from this procedure is fairly short and with little discomfort. There may be some bruising and tenderness around the donor site, as is common for most liposuction. There will be some swelling and puffiness in the face for 1-2 weeks postoperatively. There are two reasons for this: the first being some swelling from the injection process itself, and the second being that some degree of overcorrection is needed as not all of the fat injected survives, and about one third will be resorbed. Mild bruising may be noted, which is similar to dermal fillers.
Can fat grafting be combined with other procedures?
Absolutely, and it is commonly done so. Fat grafting is a great way to enhance results of blepharoplasty, facelifting, brow lifting, and laser resurfacing. This combines treatments under anesthesia and condenses recovery periods.