What is Fat Transfer ?
Often described as the ultimate ‘two-in-one’ procedure, fat transfer is the process of taking fat from an area of the body where it is unwanted – such as the stomach, buttocks or thighs – and re-injecting it into areas where fat is lacking, such as the hands or face. Fat Transfer can also be used to improve the appearance of scars on the face or body.
More recently, new techniques have been developed which allow plastic surgeons to inject larger volumes of fat into areas of the body such as the hips, buttocks or breasts with more reliable results – historically, fat transfer has not been considered suitable for these areas, as it is difficult to predict how much of the fat will ‘take’, meaning that larger volumes than necessary needed to be injected in the hopes of getting the desired results.
Who is suitable for Fat Transfer?
Although injection-based, this is generally considered to be a surgical procedure, so the usual precautions need to be taken. The main requirement is that you have enough excess fat in other areas to create the amount of volume you need.
If you don’t have a lot of extra body fat, then Body Fillers may be more suitable for body treatments, or Volumisers for the face. It can be used to augment the breasts but this has led to a great deal of criticism – if the injected fat doesn’t take it ‘dies’ and possibly will cause cysts or calcification which can make mammograms less successful.
It is important to bear this in mind before making the decision to have treatment.
What’s Fat Transfer like?
Fat transfer can be performed using either local or general anaesthetic, depending on the size of the area being treated. Fat is taken from your chosen area using a process similar to Liposuction, and is then centrifuged to remove any dead or damaged cells.
The ‘live’ fat cells are then re- injected into the area that needs volumising, using a very fine cannula and multiple injections – the fat cells need to be inserted in very small amounts at a time to ensure that they ‘take’ and establish a blood supply, otherwise they will be reabsorbed by the body and the procedure will not have worked.
What happens after Transfer?
There will probably be some swelling and bruising in both treatment areas for about a week, and you might experience slight discomfort as well.
You should avoid any vigorous activity for about three weeks after treatment. You may need to go back for further treatment, as it is still quite difficult to predict how much of the fat will take.
Will I have a scar?
It is very unlikely that you will have a scar from fat transfer.
What happens after the fat transfer?
After the procedure, avoid massage and excessive facial movement, as this will stop migration of the fat away from the desired areas of treatment. Ice compresses may be used for 24-48 hours to minimize inflammation. Dr. Kitchen will schedule to see you about a week after the procedure to check both the donor and recipient sites.
A follow-up appointment 6-8 weeks later should see most of the swelling resolved and early results assessed. A repeat procedure may need to be performed if the desired outcome has not been achieved but this should not be within 3 months of the first procedure.
How long do fat transfers last?
How much of the fat cells survive and for how long is currently unknown. Over the first few months your body will resorb about 15-20% of the fat. The remaining 80% will usually stay in place. It appears that the amount resorbed by the body and ultimately the longevity of the transfer is highly dependent on the technique used in the procedure. Occasionally patients may receive 2 or 3 treatments over a period of 6 months to a year if they desire as the development of their sculpture takes place.
Are there any side effects or complications from fat transfers?
A moderate amount of swelling is expected after the fat graft. This is usually evident for 2 weeks after the procedure. Some bruising may also be apparent.
Some complications of fat transfer include:
- Under-correction: desired outcome not achieved thus requiring a further procedures to complete the correction.
- Over-correction: too much fat is injected into the area. This prevents new blood vessels growing to supply the site, leading to cell death and a lumpy consistency.
- Clumping of the graft.
- Accidental damage to underlying structures such as nerves and blood vessels, particularly around the eye.
- Bleeding: usually associated with use of sharp needles for fat injection.
- Scarring of the donor site.