A fat transfer is a medical procedure in which a patient’s own adipose tissue is taken from one area and transplanted to an area to which the patient would like a decrease in the appearance of wrinkles and shallow areas or an increase in volume (often the lips or areas with wrinkles and fine lines). It is generally a minimally invasive procedure and is a common alternative to popular collagen treatments and Botox. Patients commonly choose fat transfers to address the lines between the nose and the mouth, crows feet, and forehead wrinkles.
With the increasing popularity of liposuction and the subsequent innovations in liposuction technology, it has become far easier to access fat and remove it from the body. While dermal fillers are often absorbed by the body in an average of less than 6 months, only a percentage of fat from a patient’s own body will be absorbed and more lasting changes can be achieved by fat transfer.
Some of the best and most frequently used donor sites for fat transfer include the inner thighs and lower abdomen. Fat transfers are often performed to augment the cheeks, chin, and lips. Fat can be transferred to many of the same areas usually addressed with Botox and dermal fillers and is commonly used by those who are sensitive to or uncomfortable with synthetic treatments. Although reactions to synthetic fillers are rare, the body does not react to it’s own fat cells in the same way.
Studies show that the body may absorb 40% – 60% of transplanted fat, so in anticipation of this surgeons generally add more than is necessary. Because of the extra fat and bloating, patients must get plenty of bed rest for the first week and may need to wear compression garments for a month or more as directed by their physician – depending on the area of the body to which fat has been transferred. Many patients are able to resume working after about a week, but should refrain from strenuous exercise for 6 weeks or more as guided by the advice of their surgeon.