A fat transfer is also commonly called a fat graft or a fat injection. This procedure can be done in multiple places on the body, depending on the desired effect. Common places to do a fat transfer include the buttocks, the breasts and, increasingly, the face, which is the procedure this article will focus on.
In this post, learn more about what a fat transfer entails, who is a good candidate for this procedure, what the process itself is like and what to expect during recovery.
What is a Fat Transfer?
One of the most commonly places to do a fat transfer is in the facial area. Over time and with exposure to the elements, the sensitive skin on the face can begin to show signs of the aging process. As well, the aging process itself can cause the skin to become depleted and stretched, which can cause each of the following symptoms:
- Marionette lines. These lines develop on the sides of the mouth and can have the effect of making a person look like they are frowning all the time. Of course, these lines are not caused by frowning, but by time and the natural process of aging.
- Nasolabial folds. More typically called “laugh lines,” these lines form around the sides of the nose and mouth. But here again, they are not caused by smiling and laughing! Rather, it is the simple process of time that causes these folds to develop.
- Under-eye folds. Usually called “bags under the eyes,” there are many so-called over-the-counter remedies, but none offers a permanent solution like fat transfer can do.
During a fat transfer, your own body’s fat reserves are removed from one location and added to another location. This procedure is done as a day surgery. Depending on how small or large the fat transfer will be, either local or general anesthesia may be recommended.
Who is a Good Candidate for a Fat Transfer?
The most critical part of the fat transfer procedure actually happens during your pre-procedure appointment. This is when you will meet with the surgeon you want to work with and discuss your goals and get all of your questions answered.
One of the chief questions most patients have is about whether they are a good candidate to have the surgery and experience the results they want to achieve. In order to determine if you are a good candidate for fat transfer surgery, your surgeon will take a thorough personal and family medical history and do an exam of the area where you wish to have the fat transfer done.
Your surgeon will also take some photos and make some markings to outline the areas where you want to have the fat transfer done. Markings will be made of both your donor sites (where the fat will come from) as well as your transfer sites (where the fat will be transferred to).
In general, you will be considered a good candidate to have fat transfer surgery if the following conditions are met:
- You are in good health otherwise.
- You are not currently pregnant, seeking to become pregnant or nursing a baby.
- You are not recovering from another recent surgery.
- You are not taking any blood thinners or medications that may interfere with or are contraindicated with the use of general anesthesia.
- You do not have any current diseases, circulation problems or skin conditions in the areas where you wish to have the fat transfer performed.
- You are not using the fat transfer as a substitute for following a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
What is the Procedure Like?
The procedure itself is typically performed in a hospital or outpatient surgical setting. The procedure takes place in several stages, since you will be donating your own fat for the fat transfer. Here, the surgeon you choose is a critical part of the procedure’s success rate, since it takes time and training to master the fat transfer technique.
Here are the three stages of the procedure:
- Fat harvesting. Your surgeon will remove the fat from your donor sites and prepare it to be transferred to your recipient sites.
- Fat preparation. The removed fat will be purified and prepared so that it can be precisely transferred to the recipient sites.
- Fat transfer. The final stage is when the harvested fat is placed in the areas you have chosen.
Fat placement is done via injection using either a needle or a cannula (a small tube). Whether your fat transfer is small or large, one of these two methods will be used to transfer the harvested fat to its desired recipient location. The actual transfer is very precise to ensure the entire desired area is sufficiently filled out with the harvested fat.
What is the Recovery Like?
In nearly all cases, fat transfer patients can return home the same day as the procedure. Depending on the areas where the fat was transferred to, you may be sent home with compression tape or garments to wear. You will receive detailed aftercare from your surgeon that is specific to your actual transfer sites.
For your comfort and the swiftest healing, you may be advised to take some time away from work. In the first week after your surgery, depending on the size of your fat transfer, there may be some visible swelling and bruising. Any scarring should begin to fade by the second week. During the recovery time period, you should refrain from doing any heavy lifting or physical exertion and following your surgeon’s recovery directions to the letter.
By the third week following your fat transfer, you will begin to see and enjoy the results of your procedure. As each week passes, your body will more fully incorporate the changes and you will be able to return to your regular daily schedule again.