Ever wished you could get rid of fat in one area and use it to enhance another? Fat transfer allows you to do just that! By harvesting fat from a troubled area, typically the abdomen, hips, or thighs, our board-certified plastic surgeons are able to re-inject it to fill in depressions, wrinkles, and scars on your face, as well as restore lost volume to the cheeks and lips.
What is a facial fat transfer?
Humans have a complex relationship with fat. We need it, yet we hate it. We need fat for energy and to support cell growth. Fat also helps protect our organs and keeps our body warm, especially on a cold, sleety winter day in Newport News. Fat absorbs some nutrients and produces important hormones, as well.
But when pockets of fat accumulate in certain areas, such as the flanks and the lower abdomen, it is public enemy number one. It creates unsightly bulges that can be very difficult to target and remove with changes in diet and exercise. That’s what liposuction was invented to address — those unwanted pockets of fat.
Fat transfer simply takes the fat from an area it is despised and moves it to an area where is it appreciated. Liposuction removes it from an area such as the flanks. The fat is then purified and loaded into syringes. Then our four board-certified plastic surgeons inject the fat back into areas of the face that have lost volume, sagged, and allowed the formation of lines and creases.
What are the benefits of Facial fat transfer?
At Plastic Surgery Center of Hampton Roads, patients don’t often think of fat transfer. They are interested in dermal fillers for temporary volume increases, or they’re looking at a facelift for more involved rejuvenation. As a procedure, fat transfer falls somewhere between the two. The fat that is transferred and “takes” is permanent, so this provides a lasting solution that fillers cannot provide. Of course, a fat transfer doesn’t involve the excision of tissue or the elevation of underlying support musculature that comes with a facelift. But, if you’re not interested in surgery, a fat transfer can provide some of the same rejuvenation in the sense of volume return.
When compared to dermal fillers for returning volume to an area such as the cheeks or under-eye hollows, fat transfer has a couple of other benefits/advantages. First, to get the fat we need for the transfer, we take it from an area where you don’t want it, such as that pooch on your lower stomach. So, you’re losing fat there and gaining it where you’ve lost volume on your face.
Second, because your own fat is used, there isn’t any chance of having an allergic reaction to the injections. Some dermal fillers, particularly synthetic fillers, can cause an allergic reaction.
Am I a Candidate for Facial Fat Transfer?
If you would like to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, enhance your cheeks, or add volume to sunken or hollow areas, fat transfer may be an option for you. Good candidates typically:
- Have indentations, depressed scars, or deep wrinkles
- Wish to enhance the size and shape of their lips
- Have an area with sufficient fat to be transferred
- Are healthy non-smokers
How is a Facial fat transfer performed?
These are three-step procedures that we perform at our Williamsburg and Newport News offices. There is a real beauty in the simplicity of these procedures with their awesome goal of taking the fat from where you don’t want it and transferring it to where you do.
Here are the steps:
Your unwanted fat is harvested from the donor site. Once the site is selected, we use tumescent liposuction to remove the fat from the area. First, a saline solution that also contains lidocaine and epinephrine is injected into the area. This acts to constrict the fat pockets, making them easier to remove. Plus, the lidocaine acts as a local anesthetic and the epinephrine constricts blood vessels for less blood loss and bruising. A tiny incision is made, and a thin cannula is inserted. The cannula is moved side to side to break loose the fat cells that are then suctioned out.
Once the fat is removed, the fat cells are separated from the blood, tissue, and other fluids. The purified fat is then ready to be injected back into the target areas on the face.
The purified fat is now injected into the target areas with a thin cannula. As your surgeon withdraws the cannula from an injection site, a line of fatty tissue cells is deposited. In larger facial areas such as the cheeks, we may create a grid of grafted fat. Otherwise, for areas such as smile lines, the line may simply follow the crease in the skin. In most cases, the grafted areas are then lightly massaged to provide a natural contour.
Types of Fat Transfers
- Fat Injection: This treatment is usually better for small depressions. Fat injection is performed on an outpatient basis. Small amounts of fat are injected into the deep skin layers under the depression or defect.
- Fat Transfer: The patient’s own fat is collected (suctioned) from a distant donor area and re-injected into the treatment area.
Fat injections are an outpatient procedure. Fat transfer may require sedation plus local anesthesia if larger amounts of fat are to be collected, though small amounts of fat can be collected and transferred under local anesthesia. The treated areas usually look normal within a few days, though you may experience slight swelling and bruising in the areas where fat was harvested
What is recovery like after a facial fat transfer?
You’ll have some discomfort at the liposuction site, but this is more of an ache rather than sharp, acute pain. It is easily manageable with over-the-counter pain medication for most patients. This should only last a couple of days. We will have you wear compression garments over the liposuction area for three weeks to help manage to swell and prevent any blood from collecting in the area. These also help your skin tighten down over the slimmer contours.
The injection sites where the fat was placed will have some bruising and slight swelling. This peaks in 2-3 days after your treatment. It helps to sleep with your head elevated for at least the first week or two, if possible. In the beginning, it will seem as if too much fat has been injected. This is partly due to the swelling, but it’s also due to the fact that we inject more fat than is needed because 75-80 percent of the fat will take while the rest is metabolized by the body.
When can I get back to normal activities following my fat transfer?
Most of our fat transfer patients can return to work in three to four days, a week at most. As for exercise, you can return to light, low impact cardiovascular exercise after one week. But strenuous exercise needs to wait for two to three weeks. This is to help create an environment conducive for the most fat to “take.”
Can I combine a Facial fat transfer with other procedures?
Fat transfers are easy-to-take procedures thanks to the expertise of our four board-certified plastic surgeons at Plastic Surgery Center of Hampton Roads. That makes them easy to complement with other treatments. For instance, you could have your under-eye hollows filled with fat transfer, while having Botox erase your forehead lines or crow’s feet. You could combine these treatments with laser hair removal or cellulite reduction. We could expand the fat removal with liposuction targeting larger areas.
While you wouldn’t combine facial fat transfers with most other facial procedures, other treatments could be done in combination. During your consultation, if you’re interested in combining treatments, let’s talk about your options.
What areas of the face can be augmented with fat transfer?
Thanks to our extensive knowledge of facial anatomy, you have many options for where you may want to have fat placed on your face. These are the usually targeted locations:
- Under-eye hollows
- Sunken cheeks
- Areas where fat has left the cheekbones
- Deep grooves running from the nose to the corners of the mouth (nasolabial folds)
- Under-eye lines
Are there risks associated with facial fat transfer?
These procedures are really refreshingly straightforward. We simply remove the fat from areas you do not want it, and we inject it back into areas where you want fat returned. Because of that, they are very low risk. Remember, this is your own fat that is being used, so there aren’t any possible reactions. We purify the fat harvested to make it mainly just the fat cells when we inject it back into your face.
The only real risk, per se, is that not all of the transferred fat “takes.” The fat cells need to acquire a blood supply once injected across the facial areas. We over-inject the areas to allow for this, but there is some variability.
Additional procedures that could enhance the result of Fat Injections are other facial cosmetic procedures such as Facelift, Eyelid Lift, and Nose Reshaping. The best way to determine which options will give you the best results is to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon. If you are in the Hampton Roads area, give us a call today! We’ll be happy to work with you to design a surgical plan that suits your needs.
Payment for Plastic Surgery
This procedure is considered cosmetic and therefore is not covered by insurance. The patient is responsible for payment. Our patient counselors can help you with your financial arrangements, including financing.
Schedule Your Consultation Today
If you’re interested in learning more about facial fat transfer please contact us for a consultation at 757-873-3500 or fill out our contact us form. We will discuss your needs and concerns, and determine your best course of action.