What is fat grafting?
Fat grafting involves harvesting/removing fat by liposuction from one part of the body and then transferring it to a new area or areas as a permanent filler to augment, enhance or contour areas that require volume.
The fat can be removed from any area on the body, though it is typically removed from areas that have excess fat. Common areas to borrow fat are the abdomen, thigh, and back. Though not often the primary purpose of the surgery, removing fat from these areas by liposuction is an added bonus in that it will improve contour in those areas.
The fat that is removed is treated by removing the aqueous and oily layers and then injected into areas that require more volume. Common areas to transfer fat include the buttock, the breasts, the face (cheeks and jaw line), and to scars that are tethered.
This is a minimally invasive procedure in that only a 3 mm incision is required to remove the fat by liposuction from the donor site and no incisions are required to inject the fat.
Because grafted fat cells that are injected must gain a new blood supply from the surrounding tissue, it must be injected in small parcels to maximize survival. When fat cells pick up a new blood supply they will incorporate themselves into the surrounding tissue and will therefore have a permanent effect. Fat cells injected that fail to gain a new blood supply (from clumping or over-injecting) will be resorbed within the first 6-12 weeks and therefore will be only temporary. Because of this limitation in the amount of fat that can be transferred to certain locations at any one time, more than one grafting session may be required. This is often something that can be determined at your initial consultation.
By using proper technique and limiting the amount of fat transferred per session, Dr. Eckhaus can produce excellent permanent results with fat grafting.
Though smaller areas can be done under local anesthesia, it is more common for this surgery to be performed under general anesthesia. Surgery will take between 1 and 3 hours and no overnight stay is required.
At the sites where fat is borrowed (or “harvested”), a small 2-3 mm incision is made. Often only 1 stitch is required and typically this incision is barely perceptible.
The fat is injected through very small puncture sites in the skin that do not require any sutures. Therefore no incisions are made at the sites where the fat is transferred.
A post-operative compression garment is often used to help limit the swelling and for comfort.
The swelling will increase in the first 1-2 weeks and then begin to subside. By 3-6 weeks most of the swelling from surgery has resolved and the resulting change in volume or contour can be seen.
At three months following surgery, the final volume can be appreciated. Fat that has picked up a blood supply and survived by three months will be permanent in nature.
The recovery from surgery can be as little as 1-5 days and often people are back at work within the week.
The exception to this is fat grafting to the face as the bruising may persist for 10-12 days.