What is Facial Fat Grafting or Autologous Fat Transfer?
Autologous Fat Transfer (also called fat grafting) refers to the method of processing and purifying fat for use as an injectable filler.
Fat Transfer has powerful facial rejuvenation & “anti-ageing” properties. It is often less predictable in ‘uptake’ than more traditional dermal volumisers, such as high quality temporary-filler-solution products. Note: we use only long-lasting yet TEMPORARY fillers for best-practice rejuvenation strategies.
Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, Fat Transfer sessions may need to be repeated to get the best facial rejuvenation results.
Face, Breasts or Hands and Fat Grafting
Fat transfer is still in it’s relative infancy with regards to breast augmentation and many Australian surgeons are still shying away from its use.
Because of the larger area needing filling, it is sometimes less practical (and more costly) than are implants or other methods of augmentation.
Fat to the face is slightly more popular but still not as popular or as reliable a procedure as other types of dermal volumisers or fillers.
Fat Transfer Methods
When fat is processed and re-injected to the face, it can help restore lost facial volume (atrophy), as well as improve skin tone and skin texture.
It can also be used for rejuvenating the hands.
The fat liposuction and re-injection process is completed during a single session of approximately 90 minutes.
After removal, the fat is processed to be suitable for injecting.
The fat processing technique is performed on site at the time of extraction.
How is the facial fat collected for grafting?
Fat transfer is essentially a three part process wherein:
- Fat is ‘harvested’ or obtained from the ‘donor’ site of the body
- Fat is processed to be suitable for re-injecting into another part of the body, hands or face
- Fat is re-injected to the areas requiring filling or volumising (tear troughs, deep lines and wrinkles being popular areas as well as cheeks)
The fat used in the injection procedures is collected using liposuction methods (e.g., a very small tumescent liposuction system using a cannula).
It is collected from an area of the body where you have sufficient (or excess) fat stores. This might be around the hip or abdominal area for most patients.
- During the liposuction process, a formulation consisting of saline, local anaesthetic and adrenaline is injected into the extraction area
- This can help limit discomfort, swelling or bleeding
- This technique also helps to separate the skin from the fat that lies below it, limiting any damage to the tissue during the liposuction process
The tumescent liposuction technique involves the use of cannula that are much smaller than the ones used in conventional liposuction.
- A cannula is a blunt needle that has holes on the side of it rather than at the end like a standard needle.
- All forms of liposuction create some bruising and swelling, but the area for fat grafting is usually a smaller area than for larger volume fat removal liposuction (as is the total volume of fat removed).
- The liposuction site usually recovers fully within a few weeks but must be managed to prevent infections.
- There is typically no need for any stitches (surgical tape may be used).
- The fat removal or “harvesting” procedure is usually performed under local Anaesthesia (you’re awake and the area is numbed prior to the procedure)
- If suitable, you can request mild sedation if required to maintain comfort
The volume of fat to be removed from the donor area (e.g., buttock or hip area) will vary depending on the volume of fat fluid that is required for the area being treated.
For facial rejuvenation procedures, the amount of fat to be harvested is usually between 50 to 80 ml per treatment.
How is the fat processed before it is injected to the face?
- Fat cells (fluid) collected from your body is processed before it is re-injected to the face or hands
- Fat transfer is also known as ‘autologous fat grafting’ or AFT (Autologous Fat Transfer methods)
- Not ALL of your re-injected fat will ‘take’ to the face (The fat cells that don’t take are essentially reabsorbed and excreted)
- Repeated procedures are often required but it depends on what you are wanting to add volume to (or fill) and how your face responds to the injections
- It is best performed by a highly skilled Facial Surgeon and may get best results when procedures are combined
- Some patients find it far more practical to use traditional volumisers (such as our high quality, a temporary-filler-solution based injectable products) for more predictable results and fewer treatment sessions (traditional injectables do not rely on a donor site for ‘harvesting’ fat to inject into the face and are thereby somewhat more straightforward as a procedure).
- Some patients may use a combination of fat transfer and other types of temporary injectable fillers to get the rejuvenating effects they are seeking
Ask your Surgeon about ALL of your options – Surgeons such as our leading Facial Surgery experts Dr Sackelariou, Dr Richard Maxwell and Dr Geoff Barnett (and Eyelid Surgeon Dr Benjamin Burt) may be able to recommend a combination of procedures to give you long-lasting yet natural-looking facial rejuvenation and scar minimisation results.
Fat Graft survival rates vary.
This procedure has been proven to improve the quality of surrounding tissue as well as the general appearance of the overlying skin, by replacing lost volume. However, fat graft survival rates can be in the 30% to 80% range. This can mean that multiple procedures are required (whilst fat grafting can help you get a great result, it is variable and sometimes a temporary-filler-solution based injectables can get you the look you want in less time and at less cost).
Is there any downtime with Fat Transfer – and what results will I get?
The re-injection is performed via cannula and local Anaesthetic is used in most cases.
Pain or tenderness in the extraction area can be expected for a few days, as well as minor bruising. Bruising in the re-injection sites is less common, but can occur due to a cannula not being as fine or sharp as a regular needle.
Fat Transfer methods offer volume enhancement to areas like the mid face and under the eyes, while also offering greatly improved tone, elasticity and vitality to the overlying skin.
Fat tissue that is re-injected doesn’t have it’s own blood supply; therefore it needs to be placed near blood vessels to ensure the survival and prosperity of the fat cells. It is particularly suited for facial rejuvenation as it’s injected superficially into tissue that is rich in vessels.
Several treatments might be required to get the desired effects.
Fat transfer methods can be a way to reduce scarring or to fill facial lines (other methods are also available).
Areas particularly suited to Autologous Fat Transfer (Fat Grafting) Rejuvenation include:
- Lip and mouth area including Nasolabial folds (lines around the nose and mouth)
- Eye areas (Tear troughs – the area under the eye)
- Mid face including cheek area and the areas under the cheeks that can look sallow with age and lost facial volume over time
- Hands (backs of your hands)
For fat transfer to the face, ask to see Facial Surgeon, Dr Richard Sackelariou; or for fat transfer and facelift procedures, you can choose from three to four of our Melbourne Surgeons and several Sydney Surgeons. Send an Enquiry Form for further information.