Steven J. LauKaitis, MD, FACS Bryan S. Sires, MD, FACS
Henry Lee, MD
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OVERVIEW for Fat Transfer
A big reason our faces age and look older is the loss of fat underneath the skin. When we are young this fat plumps up the skin and serves as a stuffing, hiding the hard angles of the underlying muscles and bone. When this fat starts to thin we begin to look hollow. The underlying muscles and bone can be seen underneath the skin and the excess skin seems to hang off the face now that it has been deflated. We can treat some of this loss of fat with injectables. Fillers, such as Restylane®, Juvederm®, Radiesse®, can be injected to soften wrinkles and lines and push up these wrinkles from underneath so they are less deep and dramatic. Additionally, fillers can be used to add more volume in areas where it has gone missing, such as the cheeks and temple.
Fat transfer is unique in that we can restore volume in the face with your own fat and we are not limited to the amount that can be harvested and transferred. Fat can be taken from anywhere in the body and then re-implanted in hollow areas of the face.
Fat is deposited, using small cannulas, in several layers of the face to carefully add fat where it is deficient. Only a very small amount of fat is transferred with each pass in an effort to place hundreds of small deposits of fat in the area where it is needed. This helps prevent lumpiness to the transferred fat and hopefully improves survival of the transplanted cells. This can be concentrated in one specific area (the cheeks) or throughout the entire face. A fantastic benefit of this procedure is that it does not require an incision or have any “surgical” look in the final outcome. Cosmetic surgery is always focused on improvement and the illusion of youth, with fat transfer we are trying to correct the aging changes (the loss of fat) with a long lasting intervention directed at the specific problem.
This procedure is typically done in the operating room under IV sedation and can be combined with several other procedures (blepharoplasty, brow lift, cheek or face lift). Swelling and bruising after the procedure is common.
Another benefit of fat transfer is the fat contains a rich source of stem cells. These stem cells are the parent cells of all the other cells in our body and have the potential to grow other types of cells (skin cells, connective tissue cells, etc.). Fat is a wonderful source of stems cells and contains 1000 times more stems cells than our own bone marrow. These stem cells may be the reason we see such long lasting results from fat grafting/transfer. These transferred fat cells may be causing prolonged cell production in their new location.