Fat injection or grafting has broad applications in cosmetic surgery. Fat injected into areas requiring volume-enhancement produces safe, long-lasting, and natural-appearing results as volume is replaced to tissues where fat is diminished. Fat grafting usually involves harvesting fat from one part of the body, purifying it, and the carefully re-injecting it with specially designed needles into the areas requiring augmentation. The procedure may need to be repeated several times to achieve the desired result.
Swelling, which is commonly seen after fat injection, usually resolves within 2-3 weeks. The degree of swelling is most dependent on the area injected.
Am I a good candidate for fat grafting?
Patients who benefit from fat grafting are people who desire augmentation or filling of volume-deficient areas. The most commonly grafted areas include the hands, face (including the lips), and depressions in the skin contour such as those that have developed following liposuction and scarring.
Generally, patients who are considered for fat injection are in good health. If you have a history of abnormal bleeding or swelling following a procedure you should notify your surgeon. A smoking history should be disclosed to your surgeon. Each patient’s anatomy and proportions vary, and the decision to utilize fat injection techniques depends on the goals of the patient as well as the surgeon.
Fat Injection Standard Procedure Techniques
All patients requesting consideration for fat injection require a thorough pre-procedure evaluation. This may require several visits to your surgeon before the procedure. A full history and physical examination will be performed prior to the procedure. Your surgeon may take pre-procedure photographs, an informed consent will be obtained, and your skin may be marked. Either local or general anesthesia may be used, depending on your surgeon’s preference.
Fat is harvested using a special suction cannula using sterile technique. Once enough fat is obtained from the donor area, it is then purified. This often requires the use of a centrifuge which spins the fat and removes impurities. The fat is then placed into the areas requiring augmentation. The injection needle is usually passed in and out of the areas to be augmented multiple times. This creates a ‘grid’ of threads of fat graft. The areas that were injected may then be massaged by the surgeon to create a satisfactory contour. A dressing may then be placed.
Fat Injection Benefits/ Advantages
Fat injection or grafting is a technique that is growing in popularity. Fat is one of most well-tolerated fillers available to aesthetic surgeons, and thus has broad applications. It is natural-appearing, lasts a long time, and is safe. It is an effective filler used for changing body contour, revising scars, filling depressions created by liposuction, and rejuvenating the hands and face. Perhaps most importantly, it spares the patient the inherent risks associated with fillers derived from animals or cadavers.
Fat Injection Risks/Complications/Patient Safety
- Swelling is the most common post-operative side effect. Most of the swelling settles down within several weeks.
- Bruising in both the donor and recipient areas as a result of bleeding. It is unusual to require a transfusion.
- Numbness of the skin overlying the donor and injected areas. This is usually temporary.
- Slight asymmetry or contour irregularity. This usually improves as the swelling resolves.
- Under or over correction of the defect
- Loss of fat viability, with resultant failure of the desired augmentation
Fat Injection Recovery Process
Dressings may be placed on the injected areas. These dressings may include the use of tapes or compressive-type dressings. Your may also be instructed regarding a massage program after the procedure. Swelling and bruising usually resolve within 2 to 3 weeks.