Fat transfer (also variously known as lipofilling or fat grafting) is the process whereby fat is harvested from one part of the body through liposuction – usually the abdomen, buttocks or thighs – and then injected in another area where fat is lacking. This is usually the face or the hands.
Fat transfer has been used as a means of volume augmentation for many years, but it is unpredictable in terms of its results. Recently developed techniques have made fat transfer more consistent and there are many benefits to the process. The fat is harvested from your own body (meaning it is less likely to cause a reaction) and the fat cells that aren’t reabsorbed last longer than dermal fillers.
Fat transfer has also been used as an alternative to breast implants for many years, but the procedure has been criticised because it demands larger amounts of fat to be grafted for a fat transfer. This fat can ‘die’ which leads to cysts or calcification and these can compromise the success of mammograms. New techniques are being developed all the time to improve this procedure but it should be viewed with caution.
However this procedure is becoming much more popular now that surgeons have found new and better techniques to be able to perform fat transfer saftley and enable better results with a new technology application: water assisted liposuction.
Fat Transfer: Am I suitable?
For facial augmentation, this process is suitable for men and women who are showing the ageing process, particularly in terms of sunken cheeks, and who have enough fat to harvest from other parts of the body.
Fat Transfer: What do I have to do to prepare?
Your surgeon will give you instructions to help you prepare for fat transfer and these may include guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and taking or avoiding certain vitamins and medications. While making preparations, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery and to help you out for a few days, if needed.
Fat Transfer: What’s the treatment like?
Fat transfer can be done under either general or local anaesthetic. The fat is harvested from a fat-rich area with a thin needle called a cannula and then it is centrifuged to separate out the damaged cells. Then multiple injections of tiny amounts of the fat cells are inserted – the fat cells need to be in such small amounts to ensure that they ‘take’ as they need to establish a blood supply otherwise they will just be reabsorbed by the body.
Fat Transfer: What about after?
Fat transfer may require repeat procedures as the transplanted fat is partially reabsorbed by the body. In fact, this is seen as one of the major drawbacks of this procedure, as it is not as predictable as dermal fillers either in terms of volume or longevity.
There may be some mild discomfort in both treatment areas and you will probably see swelling and bruising for at least a week. Strenuous exercise is usually allowed three weeks after treatment.
Fat Transfer: Are there any risks or side effects?
If you’re transferring small amounts of fat then this procedure is very safe and there are few long-term problems. As it is not as easy to predict exactly how much fat will successfully graft then there may be an issue of over filling, which is why it is important to find an experienced and skilled practitioner.
Fat Transfer: What will it cost me?
Costs vary from £2,000 to £4,000.