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The Pros and Cons of Fat Transfer

Fat Transfer Art of SkinMoving fat from your hips and thighs and injecting it into your face, breasts or bottom may seem like a dream come true—and for some, it is. The process, called fat transfer or fat grafting, involves removing fat from one part of the body via a gentle liposuction and then injecting it elsewhere. It works well all over the body but is most commonly used on the face to enhance cheeks, to fill hollow lower eyelids, and/or build up areas that have lost volume due to aging. It’s also commonly used to plump up bottoms and to increase breast size and improve breast shape.

Traditional plastic surgery with implants requires an incision, creating a “pocket,” and placing the implant into that pocket before stitching to finish. In fat transfer, there is only a small incision and almost no cutting, says Dr. Paul Lubitz. Injecting into smaller areas of the face, like the cheeks, lower eyelid hollows, and lips will cost less since you’ll only need a partial liposuction.

The ideal candidate is in search of relatively small enhancement to her breasts, has a natural lift with good bust contour, and has excess body fat to remove. In reality, most women are seeking much more of a size increase and change in shape and lift than fat transfer can currently offer.

Anyone who wants more than a very modest size change will require multiple injection sessions to work up the results – and even then, there is only so much healthy tissue that can be harvested and injected, says Dr. Lubitz.

So-called “lunchtime” filler procedures like Juvederm that plump up the lips and cheeks require no downtime or special care afterward. Fat transfer involves minimal downtime and normally less swelling than Hyaluronic Acid Fillers. Bruising may be equally present with both procedures.

Pros

  • Autologous fat (from your own body), as opposed to dermal fillers, replaces “like with like,” reducing the chance of allergic reactions to foreign substances.
  • Fat transfer results are natural, long lasting and safe.
  • Because you’re injecting your body with something produced by your body, some people consider it “natural” filler.

Cons

  • It is time-consuming to prepare fat tissue before transferring it, compared to dermal fillers, which are prepackaged.
  • For augmentation, you may require multiple sessions to achieve your desired breast or buttock size
  • A portion of fat will naturally absorb and effectively “disappear” as you heal. In order to prevent fat from reabsorbing, there shouldn’t be too much movement of the injected area right after surgery. Areas that shift a lot, like the lips, typically don’t hold on to fat very well. Pressure is also hard on the transfer—fat that is injected into the butt can easily dissipate if patients sit on their bottoms a lot during the first couple weeks of recovery
  • If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, it’s not recommended you get a fat transfer, as the injected cells can get in the way of certain breast cancer screenings, says Dr. Lubitz

Are you a good candidate for a fat transfer?

You must have donor sites from which fat can be taken. It is important that you do not have any circulation problems, either from a medical condition or smoking.

Facial fat transfer: If you have facial creases, such as laugh lines, smile lines, and crow’s-feet, fat can be removed from your abdomen, thighs, or other areas and be injected into your face. Acne scars and sunken areas of the face, lips, and cheeks can also be filled in. Dr. Lubitz can even use grafted fat to minimize lines between your nose and mouth, correct skin depressions or indentations and minimize forehead wrinkles.

Breast reconstruction: If you have breast defects following lumpectomy for breast cancer, or after having children, fat grafting is an effective method for filling in these defects. Fat grafting is also an option for total breast reconstruction following mastectomy; however, to achieve sufficient breast volume, this is usually a multistage process that requires at least two to four sequential fat grafting procedures.

Buttock augmentation: Many people who desire a fuller, more rounded buttock will opt for a “Brazilian butt lift,” which uses fat transfer to provide a more curvaceous buttock without the use of an implant. Liposuction is commonly used to both sculpt the surrounding area and collect the autologous fat to be injected.

Hand rejuvenation: Fat transfer into your hands can “plump up” the thin, wrinkled areas, covering underlying vessels and tendons and improving the quality of your skin over time.

If you are in good general health, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate for this procedure.

Catherine LubitzCatherine Lubitz
Owner & Operations Manager at Art of SKIN
Catherine started her career path in the field of esthetics and quickly discovered that specializing in the skin was the most rewarding and ultimately, her passion. As the mother of a cancer survivor, mom of two boys, Catherine runs a growing medical aesthetics and dermatology business with her husband.

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