Fat grafting, sometimes called autologous fat transfer, is the surgical process by which fat is moved from one area of your body to another. It has a long history and numerous applications, making it one of the fastest-growing cosmetic treatments around.
At Arizona Ocular & Facial Plastic Surgery, oculofacial plastic and cosmetic surgeon Dr. Dustin Heringer regularly uses fat grafting as part of his surgical face lifts, as well as for minimally invasive dermal filler treatments. Before you sign on, there are a number of things you should know about fat grafting, so let’s get started.
The history of fat grafting
The first fat grafting procedure dates back to 1893, when plastic surgeon Gustav Neuber transferred fat from the patient’s arm to their orbital (eye) region to address scars formed from osteomyelitis. Then, in 1895, Dr. Viktor Czerny transferred a lipoma (fatty mass) to his patient’s breast to establish symmetry after a partial mastectomy.
It was an auspicious start, but fat grafting had trouble gaining acceptance over the next 100 years because of the many complications that accompanied the procedure. Doctors lacked modern, standardized liposuction techniques, and the fat they extracted generally varied in quality, yielding poor results.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that New York-based plastic surgeon Dr. Sydney Coleman started to publish standardized techniques for fat extraction, processing, and re-injection. That allowed surgeons to reliably use fat grafting to enhance the cosmetic appearance of the face, breast, hands, feet, hips, and buttocks.
And since then, physicians have documented the therapeutic benefits of fat grafting for healing wounds and scars, as well as fat’s ability to repair breast tissue after radiation treatment.
The fat grafting process
Fat grafting is performed in three steps: extraction, preparation, and reinjection.
First, Dr. Heringer extracts fat from a donor area, often the thighs or buttocks, where you want to trim down a bit. He uses a thin liposuction cannula to draw the fat out using a manual method. Lasers or ultrasonic liposuction aren’t good choices for this procedure, as they can destroy the fat cells.
Next, Dr. Heringer processes the fat using decanting and centrifugation, which separate out debris, excess fluid, and dead cells from the viable adipose cells. Washing the fat with sterile saline is another possible technique. He discards any cells that aren’t healthy enough to survive the graft.
Then, the doctor reinjects the fat in small droplets throughout the subcutaneous tissue of the area you want to augment. Using small droplets ensures good blood supply to each one, helping the graft survive.
Many cosmetic applications
Among its many cosmetic applications, fat grafting smooths out facial lines and wrinkles, giving your face a plumper, more youthful appearance. You can use it as part of a surgical face lift or as a minimally invasive dermal filler treatment. It even improves your skin texture, including smoothing out acne scars.
In addition, fat grafting restores lost volume in your cheeks and midfacial region, fills in the hollows around your eyes, and improves the appearance of nasolabial folds that develop between your nose and mouth.
If you’d like to learn more about how fat grafting can improve your features, or if you’d like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Heringer, give us a call at any of our locations, or book online with us today.