Fat Grafting: How Your Own Fat Can Be Transferred to Give You the Look and Shape You Want

Body GraftingBody fat…we love to hate it. We try so hard to make it go away. Too much fat in the wrong place leads to a flabby tummy, ‘love handles,’ full thighs, a fatty neck, and in men, feminine appearing breasts. However fat has another side…a positive side. Yes, I said it – a positive side. Fat, in the right amount, makes our face have a youthful fullness, helps give fullness to a woman’s breast, and produces a youthful, round bottom. With fat, just like real estate, it’s about location, location, location.

As our faces age, we can develop somewhat sunken temples, flat cheeks, thin lips, and more hollowed eyes, all related to a loss of soft tissue volume. Not only does this loss of volume affect contours, but it also contributes to making the skin look looser. As women age, they sometimes lose volume in the breast, which also can make the breasts appear droopy (ptosis). In the buttock area, sometimes we are born with flat bottoms, but sometimes bottoms flatten with aging or weight loss.

Over the past several years, cosmetic surgeons have developed better and better techniques for fat transfer. In a fat transfer, or “fat graft” procedure, fat is harvested from the body by means of liposuction. The fat is gently prepared for injection back into the body, and then is “grafted” into position using small cannulas or needles. The fat is placed in the appropriate position and tissue plane so that it gets plenty of oxygen and nutrients as it develops a new blood supply. The fat that survives the transfer process and grows a new blood supply will survive long term to provide the soft fill needed to correct volume deficiencies. The part of the fat that doesn’t survive is simply reabsorbed.

The most common areas for fat transfer are the face, breast and buttocks, although sometimes fat is placed into aging hands. In the face, fat transfer can be done alone or it can be combined with excisional procedures such a facelift, blepharoplasty (eye-lid tuck), or brow lift. Fat is most commonly used to fill out a flattened cheek, deep nasolabial lines (run from nose toward corner of mouth), the groove underneath the eyes, or sunken temples. In the face, only small amounts are generally needed to get the right result. On the other hand, buttock augmentation with fat grafts, often referred to as the “Brazilian Butt Lift,” requires larger volumes, and in some instances, may require more than one surgical stage to get the full, desired result. One area where fat has proven particularly helpful is in the correction of contour irregularities that sometimes occur after previous liposuction procedures. In these instances, moving the fat around to fill in the depressions is a powerful improvement tool.

Recovery after a fat graft procedure is generally rapid, although this depends on if any other procedures were performed at the same time. For instance, facial fat grafts in combination with a full face-neck lift will take longer to settle than facial fat grafts alone. Typically after an isolated fat graft procedure you might experience a week or two of swelling, perhaps a little bruising (but often not), and the injected areas may feel firm for a few days. Since incisions are very small, after the swelling and bruising subside you can usually be up and working out in relatively short time. Complications like infection can occur but this is very rare with fat grafting procedures. Another potential complication is “loss” of the fat graft. In this instance, the transferred fat simply doesn’t seem to grow its new blood supply and hence melts away over several weeks. A good rule of thumb is that whatever volume that you have present at three months after surgery is the volume that you’re going to keep.

Of course everybody is different, and every BODY is different. Let the physicians at the Emory Aesthetic Center talk with you about your goals, your unique situation, and create a plan to fit your specific needs.

Related Resources

Butt Lifts, Butt Augmentation, & Brazilian Butt Lifts – What are the Differences?
Butt Lift & Butt Augmentation
Fat Transfer/Grafting
Body Lifts Chat with Dr. Anderson
Takeaways from Dr. Anderson’s Body Lifts Chat

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