What is fat grafting/fat transfer
As the name suggests, fat grafting/transfer is an aesthetics/plastic surgery procedure which uses body fats to sculpt areas of the body that lack structure/volume. It is a common and popular alternative to artificial implants and fillers, especially in face sculpting.
Why fat grafting?
Fat grafting is a versatile procedure which can be used to achieve a multitude of outcomes.
Face lifting and adding volume
As we age, our skin loses its support structures like collagen and elastin. This causes the skin to sag as it succumbs to gravity. The loss of these support structures also causes the face to lose volume. The combined effects make the jowls, wrinkles and hollows in our face much more visible, giving the distinctive “tired” appearance associated with old age.
By grafting fat from other parts of the body to the face, the lost volume of the skin can be filled out. This has both a lifting and volumetric effect on the face, hiding jowl lines, wrinkles and hollows in the face. Overall, this provides a younger, more radiant appearance.
Facial recontouring and sculpting
Some individuals may be unhappy with their current face shape, even if there are no signs of aging. By strategically injecting fat into specific parts of the face, it can be sculpted into a more desirable shape. Fat grafting can be used to shape the cheeks, jawline, nose, and generally any areas on the face which are suitable for filler injection.
Tissue material for other plastic surgery procedures
Many plastic surgery procedures can be complemented with fat grafting to achieve a more well-rounded result. Fat can be used to help smooth out sharp, unnatural lines and edges in the face if required. This is especially helpful in large scale plastic/facial reconstruction surgeries.
Complementary procedure with liposuction
Usually, the fat extracted from liposuction is discarded after the procedure. However, patients may opt to utilise these fat cells for fat grafting, possibly at a reduced cost. Hence, individuals considering liposuction may want to include fat grafting in their considerations as well.
Procedure of Facial Fat Grafting
Fat grafting is carried out in several steps. Firstly, fat will be extracted from a suitable part of your body using a liposuction vacuum. The extracted fat is then purified before it is injected under your skin at strategic points on your face or other areas of concern. The doctor may massage your face at this stage to properly distribute the injected fat before it settles. You may be asked to rest at the clinic for a short duration for observation, after which you can be discharged.
Local or general anaesthesia will be administered for the procedure as required.
Fat grafting, unlike liposuction, is generally much safer as only a small amount of fat is extracted.
Some possible complications include:
- Infection and inflammation
- Injection of fat into blood vessels, clogging them and leading to necrosis
- Damage of nerves, leading to temporary or permanent numbness/loss of sensation
- Rarely, the cannula may puncture an internal organ. This requires immediate surgery repair.
These complications are rare, and usually a result of poor technique. Be sure to approach a skilled and experienced doctor for your fat grafting procedure.
Results are usually immediately visible, after the initial swelling subsides.
Yes. Different areas of the face respond differently to fat grafting. Areas which experience frequent movement may require more sessions to see the best effects.
Most fat grafting procedures give relatively long-term results of up to a couple of years. Permanent results are rare.
Recovery from fat grafting is usually fast, as only small amounts of fat are removed. Patients can usually resume sedentary work immediately after.
Drink plenty of water after the procedure to replace fluids that are removed with the fat and prevent dehydration, especially if liposuction is performed together.
If liposuction is performed, you should avoid strenuous activities for at least 4 weeks
Most individuals are suitable for fat grafting as long as you are generally healthy. Even those with minimal body fat percentages will have some fat available for facial fat grafting. However, those with BMI below 19 should be prepared for the possibility that there is insufficient fat for transfer.