Fat transfer

Too much fat here and not enough fat there? Wish we could just move it from one place to another? Well, we can.

Fat transfer is the process whereby fatty tissue of suctioned from an area of the body in which it is in excess and then re-injected into an area needing extra volume. Classically this will be performed in two scenarios

1) Thin aged face.

One of the chief mechanisms by which lines and wrinkles occur is by the loss of tissue volume that occurs with time. As facial volume falls, ageing skin will not shrink sufficiently to remain taut over the face, and wrinkles result.

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In times past the solution was always thought to be a facelift, but we can see the misguided results of such an approach in any gossip magazine – the skeletonised faces of Hollywood’s overlifted, overstretched fading stars. And yet, young faces are full of plump volume!

So, contemporary facial rejuvenation strategies include measures to restore lost volume, and fat transfer is a cornerstone of many such strategies.

The process involves firstly harvesting fat from a location in which some fat excess exists, typically abdomen or buttocks or hips. A limited liposuction procedure occurs, that is, a volume of extremely dilute anaesthetic solution is infused into the harvest site then a fine blunt cannula is intoduced into the anaesthetised area and fat is suctioned out through this cannula.

The second part of the process involves the injection of the fat into the volume-deficient face. The injections are planned and the face marked out. Very dilute local anaesthetic is injected into the transfer site and given time to work. The fat is then injected into the recipient site(s) using another fine blunt cannula designed for the purpose. Voila.
2) As part of a body liposculpture treatment.

Here, the principal goal is to remove excessive fat from the body, typically from abdomen, hips, thighs, etc, and in the process large volumes of fat are removed. This fat is then available to enhance body volume in areas that were on the empty side. For example, transfering fat into the upper buttocks can improve buttock profile. Alternately, fat can be transferred into dimpled areas of cellulite.

In either case, certain principles apply

  • Some of the transferred fat will not “take” and so some of the volume improvement seen immediately after the treatment will thence be lost. In fact, a 50% loss is considered usual even in the best of hands.
  • Therefore, spare fat should be harvested in the first instance and stored (frozen) in case future “top-up” treatments are necessary. Fat can be kept in a freezer for 12 months and still be useful for “top-ups”.
  • Whilst tempting, it is wrong to “over-correct” at the time of the initial treatment, as the 50% loss mentioned above may *not* occur.

Because fat harvesting is fiddly and because the degree of ultimate volume correction attained is hard to predict, alternatives to fat transfer exist in the form of the commonly used fillers. However, at present, these are not economical to use for large volume augmentations.

Discuss your needs with Dr Mahony and a plan can be formulated