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Fat Injections

Overview

What are
fat injections?

Fat injection or autologous fat transplantation is the process of extracting fat from one’s own body (using liposuction techniques) and then using this fat as a filler for treating wrinkles, adding volume for facial and hand rejuvenation, and treating contour deformities after liposuction or from scars.

Fat transferred in this manner can be considered an ideal filler material for many reasons. First, fat as a filler is very safe since it comes from your own body. Second, about half of the fat injected becomes living tissue and provides a permanent natural result. Finally, aside from procedure costs, the fat used comes at no cost and for most of us there is plenty of reserve.

Fat Injections

How are
fat injections commonly used?

Fat injections can be used anywhere in the body to serve as a safe, natural tissue filler. For facial rejuvenation, fat injections are used to fill various lines like those from the nose to the corner of the mouth (nasolabial folds) or provide volume to sunken cheeks or depressions below the eyes.

Fat can also be used to change facial contours as with lip augmentation. Other than the face, fat is also used for hand rejuvenation, buttock augmentation, and filling in various contour deformities. Examples of these include deep scars, post-liposuction indentations, and other forms of traumatic tissue loss.

How do
fat injections work?

In youth, an abundant amount of fat below the skin provides a smooth and plump appearance to most of our facial features. As we age this fat begins to slowly disappear which creates a sunken in, aged appearance. Facial fat grafting and fat injections work by adding volume to restore these areas that have become depleted and to fill wrinkles like other fillers.

Unlike all other fillers, the injected fat cells are nourished by the body and become living, permanent tissue. Fat injections and fat grafting are not a replacement for other procedures like facelifts. For instance, patients with loose skin and sagging tissues will need a facelift but fat injections can be used at the same time to add volume, if necessary, providing a much better result.

Chemical or laser resurfacing can be added as well to improve the texture and appearance of the skin. Keep in mind that a plastic surgeon is a specialist that has a broad understanding of the full range of advanced treatments available from surgical procedures to fillers and skin resurfacing. After a thorough evaluation and an understanding of your goals, your plastic surgeon is the best person to determine what combination of treatments, if any, are right for you.

How is our
San Francisco fat injection treatment performed?

Unless a very small area is being treated, fat injections do require some anesthesia. The procedure is done in an operating room in the hospital, office, or ambulatory surgery center. If fat injections are being done with another procedure like a facelift, general anesthesia may be necessary. If done alone, a local numbing injection with sedation can work well.

The procedure begins with an injection of anesthetic into the harvest site. Common areas where fat can be harvested include the abdomen, flanks, hips, and thighs. Then an instrument almost the same as a liposuction cannula is used via tiny incisions to harvest the fat. This fat is then processed in order to purify it. Then depending on the injection site, the area is anesthetized, and then the refined fat is injected using special instruments that allow the placement of fat in miniscule amounts with each injection. This microdroplet technique improves the survival of the fat and provides a soft, natural look.

At the end of the procedure, the tiny incisions can be left alone or covered with ointment.

What is the
recovery process
for fat injections?

There is minimal discomfort associated with the recovery process. You can expect a fair amount of bruising, swelling, or redness for the first week after the procedure if only fat injections are performed.

For the first few days, ice compress may be used over the eyes or lips to help with swelling. Although the bruising and redness will subside in a week, swelling can last for several weeks to months. However after about two weeks the remaining swelling will only be noticeable to you and your surgeon.

Although you may feel you can resume your normal activities immediately, you should refrain from any strenuous activity for the first week after the procedure. By about three months after the procedure the results obtained can be considered permanent. Repeated injections may be necessary at times depending on the goals of treatment.

What are the
risks for
fat injections?

As with any procedure, risks are always present but minimized in the hands of a properly trained plastic surgeon. Allergic reactions to fat do not occur as the fat is harvested from one’s own body. There is a risk of infection but this is small. There can be some numbness in the area of injection but this is almost always temporary.

Very small incisions are used to perform the injections and the resultant scars are usually imperceptible. There can be some lumpiness or firm areas associated with fat injection but this is less likely when performed by a well-trained plastic surgeon. Not all of the fat that is injected will remain and in some cases a second procedure may be necessary to obtain the desired result.