“Natural filler”, “liquid gold”, and “personal recycling” are a few of the phrases you’ll hear used to describe fat, and the practice of fat transfer. Medical people will also use the term fat grafting for the procedure that takes fat from one or more areas of your body where there is excess, and transfers it to another area.
It’s a technique that’s been used for years, so by now, almost everyone is aware of cosmetic and reconstructive procedures that use fat to create new looks, or restore the appearance of depleted or injured areas. The transfer of fat to the buttocks has gotten most of the attention, with what’s known as the Brazilian Butt Lift, well-documented by celebrities and models to the extent that it’s become a ‘star’ in its own right. We’ll talk about the BBL, as it’s also known. But, let’s also explore the other uses of fat transfer—and where it goes.
Where can my extra fat go?
- BUTTOCKS & HIPS: As we said, the BBL is a top procedure. Extra fat is removed from one or more areas, and injected not only into the buttocks, but the hips as well, to produce an additional curve or contour, if the patient desires that effect.
- FACE: To fill sunken or creased areas, to help in scar correction, to add volume to the lips
- HANDS: Injected into hands to plump thinning skin, reducing the appearance of veins and discolorations—generally rejuvenating the appearance.
- BREASTS: Especially useful in Breast Reconstruction- after mastectomy. The patient’s fat can be used to “soften” or mask the appearance of a reconstructive implant, and generally, add to a more natural breast appearance. Transferred fat is also used, for moderate Breast Augmentation. If you’re looking for a big change in size and shape, this is not the recommended treatment.
Your extra fat can go to a pretty wide range of areas that would benefit from a little “plumping.” However, there are limits, and you should listen to your Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon’s advice on what’s best for you. Remember, not all the transferred fat survives. And, in many cases, “a little goes a long way.”
Am I a good candidate for fat transfer?
- Many if not most of us have at least some pockets of fat that can be used as a harvesting site. On the other hand, using the techniques involved in this procedure as a means for weight loss is not advised. (Often, patients who have undertaken a diet and exercise program to reduce weight, and who have some stubborn areas of fat remaining, can achieve good results through Fat Transfer). Potential patients should be generally healthy, and should not be smokers. In addition, they’ll need to prepare for assistance at home immediately following surgery, and plan for several weeks of downtime, or limited activity.
How does fat transfer work?
- You and your plastic surgeon will discuss the areas you want to address. You will undergo some form of Liposuction surgery. (Liposuction is usually performed under general anesthesia, except in the case of very small areas of fat removal). During the Liposuction portion of the procedure, fat may be removed from a number of areas, including; the abdomen, flanks, hips, thighs, back, chest, arms, etc. The fat that’s been suctioned is processed, and reinjected into the previously identified target areas (such as the buttocks, hips, face, hands, and so on.)
ARE THERE LIMITS TO HOW MUCH FAT CAN BE REMOVED?
- Yes. We can’t quote a specific amount, since all patients are different. But, your doctor will let you know what, and how much might be safely removed during a surgical session. Patients should be realistic in their expectations.
Things to know about fat transfer
- Fat Transfer is among the most popular aesthetic procedures performed today. Using a patient’s own fat to enhance other areas of the body, produces natural, very long-lasting results while eliminating concerns about foreign substances added to the body.
- Fat Transfer can produce remarkable results by recontouring the body or rejuvenating selected areas.
- Not all of the fat transferred will survive, although most of it will. Your results will be maximized by following your doctor’s instructions (including the no-smoking advisory)
- Transferred fat cells, act like fat cells. Our fat cells grow. This is why we advise patients to proceed conservatively in areas like the face. Otherwise, weight gain may show up and produce a ‘pillow-face’ effect. While it’s true that areas of the body that have been liposuctioned tend to retain their contour for long periods, they may not remain ‘fat-free’ forever, if you gain significant weight.
As we’ve mentioned, fat transfer usually involves what we’ll call “real surgery.” Liposuction associated with fat transfer may be extensive or moderate, combined with the re-injecting or grafting of harvested fat to one or more sites. Again, all post-surgery instructions should be followed carefully.
The “bottom line” on fat transfer, is that it can indeed produce results that are subtle or dramatic, natural, and for a period of time that may be described as very long-lasting, to permanent.
[Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Vincent Lepore performs Fat Transfer in his San Jose surgery center, along with a wide range of Cosmetic and Reconstructive procedures. Please call our office for a free Cosmetic Consultation, at (408) 356-4241.]