Fat transfer, also known as fat injections or fat grafting, involves taking fat from one part of your body and injecting it into the face to boost volume and smooth wrinkles. This increasingly popular cosmetic surgery procedure involves taking fat from one area of the body (usually the stomach or thighs) and injecting it into ‘sunken’ or wrinkles areas of the face to add fullness to the injected area, in much the same way as dermal fillers. For some people the main appeal of fat injections is that they are using something from their own body rather than a foreign material. However, one of the downsides of many fat injection techniques is that not all of the fat cells survive so you can get uneven, less predictable results than with dermal fillers.
Fat Injections – Face i.e. Cheeks
The cheeks are a popular area for fat transfer as there is little movement in them so the injected fat cells tend to last better than in other areas of the face and body. Losing volume in your cheeks or hollowing out of the cheeks is a natural part of the ageing process. Injecting fat into this area can bring back the youthful fullness you once had to add volume to cheeks that are naturally ‘flat’.
Buttock Fat Injections
Fat transfers can be used for buttock augmentation, also known as the ‘Brazilian butt-lift’, to give more shape and volume to flat buttocks. Liposuction is used to remove fat from the stomach. The fat is then processed using a special decanting technique. The purified fat is then transferred or injected into the buttocks.
Fat Transfer Hands
After the face, the hands give away our age more than any other part of our body. Fat injections can give the backs of the hand a fuller, more youthful contour, helping to get rid of the ‘veiny’ skeletal look that ageing hands often have. Many doctors believe that this is the most effective use for fat transfer. Alternative procedures for rejuvenation of the hands are fillers, laser treatments and chemical peels.
Bruising and swelling around the area from where the fat was collected is common after fat transfer. The newly injected area may also be swollen and bruised.
As with any cosmetic surgery procedure there is a risk of infection, numbness, or nerve damage in both areas of the body. Minor skin discoloration, or scarring at the incision points is a possibility.
The most common complication associated with fat transfer is uneven or inconsistent and unsatisfactory results as there is no way to tell how many of the fat cells will survive the treatment. Doctors often over correct the area to allow for this but this in itself can be a negative side effect.
Fat injections can be done under local anesthetic or sedation. Using small syringes or liposuction, fat is harvested from the hip, inner or outer thigh, lower back, or lower abdomen. The fat is then processed in a special centrifuge, and is then injected into the desired area. Some pressure, movement, and stinging can be felt whilst fat is removed and again when it is injected into the new area, but it is rarely painful. Painkillers can be taken to relieve any pain.
When fat injections are performed properly, a large percentage of the fat transfer will stay and the face will fill out to look more youthful. Injectable facial fillers are usually a more popular option than fat transfer as they are quicker and easier to have done and can achieve more consistent results. Fat transfer is a more drawn out procedure as it involves having fat cells harvested and then re-injected into another part of your face or body. However, unlike most injectable fillers, fat transfer can be used in larger volumes to fill larger defects and is safe as it comes from your own body.
After having fat injections, you may be quite sore and swollen in the area where the fat has been removed. You can use cold compresses and wear compression garments to help reduce the swelling and aid lymphatic drainage.
You should avoid strenuous exercise for a few weeks after having a fat transfer procedure, however mild walking can help reduce swelling and prevent blood clots.
Make sure you follow your surgeon’s post-operative advice carefully and contact them immediately if you notice any signs of infection or if you experience heavy bleeding or a sudden increase in pain.