Fat Transfer - Putting "Bad" Fat to Good Use

Relocating your unwanted fat to areas where you desire additional volume is a rare win-win treatment option in cosmetic medicine. Fat grafting can be used to fill out multiple areas of the face and/or body and most people have at least a little they would prefer moved.

Grafted, or transplanted fat, can be used to restore youthful facial proportions, enhance features, correct surgical deformities and scars, and it has the added quality of improving the quality of the overlying skin. Transplanting your own fat eliminates the potential complications seen with dermal fillers such as reactions to foreign material or allergies, and the results sometimes last over 10 years.

Especially for people who require multiple syringes of dermal fillers to achieve their desired results, fat grafting can be a less expensive option, with potentially longer lasting results.  

Another advantage unique to fat transfer is the presence of growth and healing factors, as well as stem cells, that are found in fat and not dermal fillers. Improved skin quality after fat transfers has been seen in patients since facial fat grafting started, but only in the last few years did we learn that it was due to the body's repair signalling initiated by the stem cells found with the fat. The result is smoother, more elastic skin in areas where fat is transplanted.

Because of the "liquid gold" potential in fat for future regenerative or rejuvenating treatments, removing larger quantities of fat and storing them is an excellent choice. Medical trials around the world are revealing the multiple medical uses for healing substances found in fat, even after it's been frozen, and the regenerative cells derived from fat are a type of "bio-insurance" that may be important in treating your future diseases or injuries.  Read more to learn about storing fat for future use.

Why do I not recommend fat transfers for everyone interested in volume replacement?

I hate for my patients to be disappointed and unlike dermal fillers, the duration of fat transfer results can be unpredictable. Some people maintain the volume that the fat restored for over ten years and some people lose all of their improvement in less than three months. It's impossible to predict who will get the best results with fat grafting, so patients not willing to do a touch-up fat transfer procedure if needed, should probably choose a different treatment option.

In my opinion, fat grafting is not a recommended treatment option for filling in wrinkles or depressions under the eyes where the skin is thin, and it often doesn't persist for more than a few months when used for lip enhancement. 

What's involved in a fat transfer? 

People interested in having a fat grafting treatment need to have a consultation (complimentary) with Dr. Elliott first to determine if they're a good candidate, and discuss the procedure. Heavy smokers, patients on anticoagulants (blood thinners), people with poorly controlled medical problems or who have body dysmorphic disorder, are not eligible for the treatment. A minimal amount of fat is harvested unless it's going to be banked as above, so this is not a treatment that will produce body contouring.

On the day of the treatment, Dr. Elliott gently applies anesthetic and then painlessly removes some fat with a microcannula. The fat is washed and then meticulously injected into the areas where volume is desired. 

The area from where the fat was harvested is dressed with a bulky dressing to absorb the remaining anesthetic and is usually minimally tender for a few days after the procedure. Facial bruising and swelling can vary from mild to severe, depending on the patient and the amount of fat transferred. Patients can usually return to social and work activities within three days.

What are potential problems or complications with fat transfer?

Like any procedure utilizing injections, complications can include bleeding and bruising at the harvesting or injecting sites, depressions at the site where fat is harvested, and post-treatment infections are a rare but potentially serious complication. As with dermal fillers, over-correction and under-correction can occur. Since fat may last permanently where it's grafted, over-correction can only be corrected by removing it surgically.

Because patients are all different in so many ways, fat transfer does not have the same results in everyone. 

Fat grafting treatment fees range from $1,100 to $2,700, depending on the amount used.

Call our office at 727-571-1923 today for a free consultation to learn if fat grafting or another treatment can best help you achieve the look you want.

  • Before and after dermal fillers and fat transfer