Dr Kamlen Pillay, leading plastic surgeon and head of The Specialist Laser and Cosmetic Institute (SCIN), provides the lowdown on fat grafting, a facial rejuvenation treatment that offers an alternative to dermal fillers and botulinum toxins
Fat transfer, also known as fat grafting or fat injection, is becoming an immensely popular procedure due to the natural and aesthetically pleasing result that is produced. It is a safe, long-lasting and well-tolerated procedure.
How it works is that fat is harvested from one part of your body, washed and purified, and then carefully reinjected with specially designed needles into the areas that need augmentation, or where there is a lack of volume. It may be necessary to repeat the fat grafting procedure several times to achieve the desired result. Fat grafting can be explained as a three-stage process: (1) harvesting (2) purification and transfer and (3) placement.
The patient and doctor will select a site for fat removal and the doctor will inject it with a local anaesthetic. A small incision will be created in the area for fat removal and, using a sterile technique, a cannula connected to a syringe will be inserted to carefully extract fat. This suction technique that removes adipose tissue from specific areas of the body (such as the abdomen, hips, thighs, buttocks, arms, or neck) is known as liposuction, which also has a contouring effect on treated areas.
In terms of purification and transfer, once enough fat is obtained from the donor area, the doctor will process it to prepare the fat cells for transfer to small syringes that will be used for fat injection. Purification may require the use of a centrifuge to spin the fat or a filtration process to remove impurities.
The area designated to receive the graft will then be prepared and the doctor will insert a needle or cannula into the incision point of the site being augmented.
Typically, the injection needle is passed in and out of the areas to be augmented multiple times. Each time the needle or cannula is withdrawn, a line of fatty tissue parcels is carefully deposited in natural tissue planes. This process is repeated until the desired correction has been achieved, creating a grid of grafted fat.
This procedure is also used in breast surgery. Fat grafting can be done during breast augmentation and breast reconstruction. If a patient is interested in increasing their breast size, they will be a good candite for fat grafting. If breast defects are seen following a lumpectomy for breast cancer, fat grafting is also an effective way to fill the defects.
Besides fat grafting being safe and giving you a natural looking result, there are many other advantages to this procedure – such as improvement of the overlay skin texture, skin quality, and removing unwanted fat. Generally speaking, only a few days of recovery are required.
It may take several weeks or months to see final visible results from fat grafting, as in most cases it takes a while for newly transferred fat cells to establish a blood supply and take permanent hold in their new location. Although it is common after a surgical fat transfer to experience some bruising and swelling, as well as some temporary numbness in the area, this will subside in 14 days.
At my practice, our staff is hands on with all our patients after having surgeries done. Our teams do regular follow ups to assure that patients receive the best experience and post op care.