Essentially, the fat transfer procedure harvests fat from one or more parts of the body where excess fat exists and then places it in another part of the body where the additional bulk is needed. Fat transfer -which is also known as fat grafting, autologous fat transplantation, fat injecting or microlipoinjections is being used in cosmetic plastic surgery to:
- Smooth and repair aged hands
- Fill wrinkled, creased faces
- Create more shapely, curvaceous buttocks
- Enlarge breasts
Fat is withdrawn from the patient in one of three ways: with a syringe that has a large-bore needle or with a liposuction cannula. The fat is prepared according to the practitioner’s preferred method and then injected into the patient’s recipient site. The preparation process clears the donor fat of blood, pain killers and other unwanted ingredients that could cause infections or other undesirable side effects. Human fat outside the body is incredibly delicate and it should be harvested and implanted in a closed environment by avoiding exposure to air.
Other uses and applications continue to develop as surgeons work with, and learn more about, fat transfer. Some of the most current and developing applications include:
- Cheek and chin Implants
- Repair of inverted nipples
- Post radiation therapy scars, adding onto existing implants to minimize rippling
Depending on the surgeon, the patient and several other factors, the body is reported to reabsorb anywhere from 20 to 50% of transferred fat.
In most applications, fat injections are laid down through several different layers of skin and muscle to provide a better chance for the fat cells to find a nearby blood supply. Because some fat is always absorbed, most physicians will inject 30% more fat with that in mind. Physicians have learned the best donor areas are found in:
- The lower stomach
- The inner and outer thighs
- Love handles
- Bra rolls
- The inner knees
Fat transfer to the hand
A wrinkled, bony hand with large veins, sun spots and deep grooves can reveal an advanced age even though the patient’s face, breasts or body have been surgically rejuvenated. Cosmetic surgeons have developed techniques to make hands also look younger. A few practitioners use dermal fillers like Restylane, Juvederm and Radiesse but the longer lasting method seems to be fat transfer via injection which is reported to last for years.
Facial fat transfer
A liposuction technique is used to harvest the fat and prepare it for transfer. The fat is then injected into the desired portion of the face. When using a micro injection technique, extremely small parcels of fat are placed into multiple layers of the face. The procedure is most commonly performed under local anesthesia with a light oral sedation.
The most common facial locations for fat transfer include:
- Filling in sunken areas beneath the eyes
- Fleshing out the folds of skin that physicians know as nasolabial folds, the deep wrinkles next to the mouth often referred to as “laugh lines.
- Filling in forehead creases
- Cheek Augmentation
Generally, 60% of the transferred fat persists permanently. Although, the long-term efficacy of transferred fat has been documented in numerous studies results are extremely technique dependent.