Take fat out of your body where you’d don’t want it. Put it back in where you do want it. What a concept! I’m going to share information with you about a procedure you may have heard about recently, known as “fat transfer.”
A lot of people know about liposuction, the suctioning of fat from targeted areas of the body like the stomach, thighs, or hips. But a newer procedure enables us to preserve and then re-insert your own fat into areas that you’d like to augment or enhance, such as breasts, buttocks, or even your face or backs of your hands to replace fat and collagen lost over time.
A “fat transfer procedure” is typically done right in our office’s Operating Room, either under general anesthesia (light sedation similar to the anesthesia you may have had during a colonoscopy) or under local anesthesia with an oral sedative. First, we perform liposuction to extract the fat from areas where you may have excess. The technology we use is called “Aqua lipo” and it’s excellent for fat transfer because it:
· uses high-pressured water streams to gently break up and remove the fat cells so they remain undamaged and pristine, and
· carefully separates the healthy fat from the water used to remove it, so the fat is suitable for transfer back into your body.
Next, within this same surgical procedure, we fill syringes with your preserved fat and inject it into the areas you want to enhance.
There is virtually no scarring associated with this fat transfer procedure. The incisions used to remove and inject the fat are typically 2-3 mm in length and fade to the point that they can be difficult to see within 6 months.
We’ve performed a large number of fat transfers with successful outcomes and very happy patients! We do, however, tell our patients that up to 40—60% of the fat injected can resorb (dissolve) within the first 4 weeks after the procedure. We encourage patients to wear loose clothing over the areas of fat transfer to prevent compressing the healthy fat. This helps minimize the amount of fat resorbed, but some of this resorption is simply a natural part of the healing process. While some patients have less fat loss and no visible aesthetic decrease, others may need a follow-up procedure to add additional fat to areas they want enhanced. The good news is that the amount of fat your body maintains after fat transfer will not decrease any further after the initial first 4 weeks, and will last forever since it’s your own natural tissue.
It would seem logical to inject more fat than desired to make up for the potential loss of fat; however, over-injecting fat can compress it and prevent enough blood supply from reaching the newly transferred tissue. This in turn can lead to fat cell death, which shows as hard nodules or oil cysts within the areas of fat transfer. To prevent this, we carefully inject the fat in fine layers to enhance the area while also allowing proper healing of the transferred fat cells.
Not only is fat transfer an excellent technique used in cosmetic surgery, we also use this technology for medical purposes. For example, women with breast implants after bilateral (double) mastectomy may have issues with asymmetry, or experience contour (shape) irregularities as their breasts settle over time. Fat transfer is an effective way to give them a more balanced, symmetrical look. Also, scars from traumatic injury can often have contour irregularities, correctable with fat transfer. Other medical uses for fat transfer include facial asymmetry correction, or padding “boney” prominences such as the heel or coccyx that have lost their native fat pads, from traumatic injury.
Please feel free to ask questions here or visit us for a consult if you’re interested in learning more about a fat transfer procedure.