Fat transfer, also known as fat grafting, is a cosmetic surgical procedure where excess fat is grafted or injected via liposuction to other areas of the body to improve the fullness of the area. It is most often grafted to areas that lack desired volume the breasts, buttocks, hands, and face, the most common procedure being facial fat transfer. It is used to obfuscate the effects of aging such as wrinkles, creasing, and sagging, especially in the face. Fat transfer procedures are some of the most common cosmetics procedures in the United States.
There three stages to a facial fat transfer procedure – Extraction, processing and purification, and re-injection. The fat is first harvested from a chosen area, processed and cleaned, then re-injected with individual needles.
With the guidance of a surgeon, the patient chooses and area to extract excess fat from. One does not have to be overweight for there to be a space with a little excess fat, as all bodies are different. It is most often removed from the abdomen or thighs, as those areas tend to have the largest deposits of fatty tissue.
Before the surgery, the patient will be administered antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection during the procedure. The areas for the process will be marked by the surgeon. During the surgery, the area will be injected with local anesthetic. The patient may also be sedated.
After deciding on the area to harvest the fat from, the surgeon will then create a small incision or hole in the selected area. After the area is sterilized, a cannula, or a small metal tube attached to a small needle, is inserted into the hole. This is connected to an aspirator, a suction device which removes the fat from the body and delivers it to a particular container.
2.Processing and purification
The liquid fat removed from the area is known as liposuction aspirate, a mix of fat, blood, and other fluids and tissues from the area. This fluid is then purified, the contents usually separated by filtration. The fat may also be spun in a centrifuge to remove impurities such as large clumps of tissue.
The area for transfer is sanitized, and a local anesthetic is applied. A small incision will be made for a cannula on the desired area. The fat is then injected in micro-injections.
During injection, the needle is removed and adjusted several times to ensure the fat is evenly distributed. The area is examined after each injection to make sure it has been injected over natural planes of tissue. The process is repeated as many times as necessary until a grid of grafted fat is created and the looks the most optimal.
After injection, the area may be massaged by the surgeon to contour it. However, most doctors prefer to rely on their injection technique to create the ideal shape and contour.
Fat transfer is a safe and durable method of improving one’s appearance and obfuscating signs of aging. The extracted fat can be moved to the lower eye area, nasolabial folds, cheeks, and the jawline. Fat injections to face in such zones hides signs of aging such as crow’s feet, wrinkles, sunken cheeks, and bags under the eye. Youthful faces naturally have more dermis, which gradually deteriorates as one gets older, Surgeons recreate this youthful look by grafting fat onto areas where there already is tissue.
Fat can also be injected into the breasts or buttocks to increase their size and improve their appearance. The injections create an attractive and fuller look. The fat is removed from areas where there may be excess fat, which improves the appearance of those areas as well.
The main benefit to fat transfer is an improvement to one’s appearance and thus one’s self-esteem and well-being. The confidence one gains from looking younger and more attractive can carry over to all areas of life. No matter the cost of surgery, the feeling of being young and beautiful is priceless.
Like any surgery, there are possible issues that can arise from fat injections to face. After the surgery is performed, patients may experience bruising on the sites of removal and application. This usually takes a few weeks to fade. The area may also swell for 1 to 2 months after the procedure. The patient may also experience aches and pains. However, this can usually be handled with OTC pain medications such as acetaminophen. Patients must avoid touching or laying on the site of injection for several weeks after for optimal recovery.
Severe complications are rare after fat grafting. The larger a procedure, the more likely an issue may occur. For this reason, the surgery is always performed over several sessions.
The most common complication is an infection, as there is a risk of bacteria entering the wound every time the body is hurt, even if it a medical procedure. With proper sanitation and administration of antibiotics, this can easily be prevented.
Seromas, or buildups of fluids beneath tissues, may result from injecting fat into an area. Although smaller seromas are absorbed, larger ones must be aspirated to prevent infection.
Damage to the skin and tissue may result from inserting cannulas, especially in deeper levels of fatty tissue. Cannulas can sometimes puncture internal organs such as the intestines, and cause internal bleeding. However, this can be avoided unless the surgeon is careless.
Other complications include allergies to tools or medications, irregularities in the contour on the site of injection(often fixed with a touch-up procedure), friction burns to the skin or nerves from the cannula or tools, and necrotic tissue (very rare).
A full recovery after fat transfer can take several months. Immediately following the procedure, the patient usually must take the pain and antibiotic medications. They must also sleep with their head elevated and not touching the pillow. They will wear bandages over the treated areas for five days. Before removing the bandages, the patient will receive a post-operative treatment at their surgeon’s office.
The treated area should be touched as little as possible for the next two weeks. It should not be given rough treatment such as rubbing, other than very light washing.
After a week, the worst of the side effects should diminish, and the patient should be able to return to work. After two weeks, they can exercise.
The patient will have regular follow-up visits to the office to check on recovery and results, and discuss any possible follow-up procedures.
Although cosmetic surgeries can cost in the tens of thousands, transferring fat to the face is generally on the cheaper end of the spectrum. A typical surgery may cost 2500 to 5000 dollars, however, small procedures can be around 100 dollars. The cost of the surgery is affected by factors such as which areas are being treated, their size, and the difficulty in treating them.
* Results not typical, please refer to our disclaimer page. All information subject to change. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.
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