Fat grafting (fat injection) is a cosmetic surgical procedure where the fat from abdomen or other parts of the body is harvested and later injected to the targeted areas such as the face or other areas. The purpose of this procedure is to provide fullness to the face, lips, buttocks or hands. In some areas, especially the face, fat grafting is used to filling out wrinkles for enhancement or rejuvenation purposes, thus creating a youthful facial feature.
In addition to these benefits, fat grafting harnesses the power of stem cells that occur naturally in your own fat. The fat cells that are harvested can be processed by centrifugation method into highly purified fat cells that contain a small amount of stem cells. Once these stem cells enriched fat cells are obtained, they can be injected to the face or other targeted areas to improve the skin texture and blood circulation of these tissues.
The approach to fat grafting involves two steps:
- Fat harvesting (liposuction method): fat is harvested by means of liposuction.
- Fat grafting (fat injection): harvested fat cells are processed and injected to targeted areas.
Ideal candidates for fat grafting
- Healthy individuals who do not have a life-threatening illness or medical conditions
- Individuals who are motivated and have realistic expectations
Preoperative evaluation for fat grafting
Communication is vital in order to achieve the patient’s goals. During the initial consultation, patients will have the opportunity to discuss their goals and desirable results with the plastic surgeon. The plastic surgeon will work closely with the patients to reach an agreement about the expectations from the surgical procedures involved and their long term benefits. Every patient is different, therefore a specific treatment regimen is planned to suit an individual’s need. The preoperative evaluation for fat grafting includes:
- Discussion about patients’ expectations and desired outcome
- Medical conditions, drug allergies and previous medical or surgical treatment
- Use of current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drugs
- Discussion of type of anaesthesia (under sedation or general anaesthesia)
- Physical examination of the patient
- Photography for preoperative and postoperative evaluation
Preparation for fat grafting
- Get laboratory testing or a medical evaluation
- Adjust your medications if you have certain medical conditions
- Stop smoking and alcohol well in advance of the scheduled date for surgery
- Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements before surgery
- Special instructions will be given on the day before and after surgery
The risks and safety information on fat grafting
It is important for patients to understand that every surgical procedure has its own complications and down time. However, if a patient is assessed properly before the surgery and postoperative care is given adequately, these risks can be eliminated or reduced.
Some of the common risks of fat grafting:
- Skin discoloration or bruises at the fat harvested and injected areas
- Temporary numbness or changes in the skin sensation at the face
- Injury to the underlying structures such as blood vessels, muscles or nerves
- Inadequate volume due to fat resorption
- Possibility of touch up procedure later
- Anaesthesia risks
There will be minimal swelling, bruises or discomfort at the fat harvested or injected sites for several days that can be controlled with oral medications. Recovery time is usually 2 weeks after the procedure. Oral antibiotics will be prescribed to reduce the risks of infection.
- Gentle cold compression is employed for the first 72 hours postoperatively
- Light touch is encouraged to stimulate lymphatic drainage
- Deep massage should be avoided in the first week after fat grafting because a strong directed pressure could displace the fat and force it into an undesirable area
How much will a fat grafting surgery cost?
Cost is always a consideration in elective surgery. The cost of fat grafting can vary widely.
The cost of fat grafting may include:
- Surgeon’s fee
- Hospital or surgical facility costs
- Anaesthesia fees
- Prescriptions for medication, and
- Medical tests
Fat grafting is a cosmetic surgical procedure and most of the health insurance companies do not cover cosmetic surgeries or their complications.