Fat Transfer Procedure

Fat injections, otherwise known as “autologous fat grafting,” is an all-natural process which uses one’s own body fat from one area of the body to the area needing rejuvenation. The procedure has been performed safely and effectively for a variety of cosmetic reasons, including:

  • Diminishing frown lines or nasolabial folds (smile lines)
  • Restoring volume to the cheeks
  • Providing definition to the jaw line and/or chin
  • Lip augmentation
  • Filling in depressions in several areas of the body such as the hands and thighs

Who is an Ideal Candidate for Autologous Fat Grafting?

To be a good candidate for the fat grafting procedure, it is necessary for you to have enough fat in one area to donate to another. Sometimes, we harvest fat from multiple areas to achieve our desired result. Common harvest areas include the abdomen and thighs. Facial fat grafting may be an ideal treatment for you if you desire long-term wrinkle-reduction or facial contouring. This treatment can be performed to enhance your cheeks or lips, eliminate undereye bags, and smooth away troublesome lines and creases. Ideal candidates do not smoke. If you smoke, Dr. Tarbet may advise you to quit for several weeks before undergoing fat grafting. It is also necessary to understand how facial fat grafting works, including the inherent chances that some of the transferred fat will be absorbed. Your consultation visit is just as much about determining if you are a good candidate for treatment as it is about ensuring you have realistic expectations of what fat grafting can achieve.

Can Fat Grafting be Combined with Other Procedures?

Facial aging occurs as a result of various biological changes. No one treatment can correct them all. Dr. Tarbet is interested in understanding what concerns you and what you would like to achieve through the appropriate aesthetic treatments. Your facial fat grafting treatment may be complementary to a facelift, eyelid rejuvenation, or other non-surgical modalities. Dr. Tarbet has equipped our Bellevue, WA office with proven non-surgical technologies that accomplish natural-looking results with minimal downtime. Whether you need more substantial facial rejuvenation that involves surgery or you prefer to support your body's natural regenerative processes, we have modalities that can align with your goals. If a combination of procedures is ideal, Dr. Tarbet will discuss the optimal scheduling intervals to allow plenty of time for minor recovery in between.

How is Fat Grafting Performed?

In most cases, Dr. Tarbet performs fat grafting procedures in the office using local anesthesia. A few injections make the process completely comfortable. Once the target area is numb, she removes fat from the designated area, such as the abdomen. To remove fat, the doctor may first infiltrate the area with a tumescent solution. This helps separate fat cells for easier extraction. It doesn't take much to obtain the number of fat cells needed for facial rejuvenation, just a small cannula and a syringe. The process does not require full liposuction. The harvested fat is then prepared using sterile methods and injected into the areas in which rejuvenation is desired. The entire process can take one to two hours.

What are the Benefits of Facial Fat Transfer?

We understand that facial fat transfer is only one of several forms of facial rejuvenation. To determine which approach is best for you, it's necessary to weigh several advantages and disadvantages. What patients find beneficial about the fat transfer procedure for facial rejuvenation is that it treats two areas of the body at once, the results are long-lasting, and there is no risk of adverse reaction due to allergy or rejection. The fat transfer procedure doesn't take long, may not require general anesthesia, and requires little downtime compared to facelift surgery.

Are the Results of Fat Transfer Permanent?

It's difficult to say that the results of any cosmetic treatment are permanent because the body naturally changes with age no matter what you do. That said, because integrated fat cells don't go anywhere once they've established their blood supply, we expect the results of the fat transfer to last many years. In time, due to aging, your skin and fat may weaken. Still, you'll have more fat cells and contour in the treated area than you did previously.

Does the Procedure Hurt?

Prior to beginning your fat transfer procedure, the team will ensure that you're properly anesthetized. Often, this process can be conducted using only a local anesthetic and mild sedation. You may not be asleep for your procedure, but you shouldn't feel pain, either. The local anesthesia numbs the nerve endings in the area from which fat is taken as well as the areas of the face that receive purified fat cells. You may feel slight pressure during your procedure, and you may feel soreness and tenderness afterward. Prescription or over-the-counter medication can efficiently reduce this side effect.

Are Fat Injections Better than a Facelift?

Fat injections are a form of facial rejuvenation. So is facelift surgery. However, each works in a unique way. In the fat transfer procedure, we take fat cells from one area of the body and insert them into areas of the face from which volume is lacking. With age, the natural fatty tissue that pads and contours the temples, cheeks, eye area, and lips decreases. Injecting fat that has been harvested from another area of the body can correct these age-related changes. In doing so, fat transfer may create a subtle lift, simply by filling out contours. More significant tissue laxity, which has caused deep nasolabial folds, marionette lines, jowls, and loose skin under the chin, may not fully resolve with fat transfer.

Facelift surgery is not intended for significant facial contouring. The goal of this surgical procedure is to lift muscle, fat, and skin to resolve deep creases and sagging. It's more of a tissue-tightening technique. Because facelift surgery works on one aspect of aging and fat injections work on others, the two techniques are very complementary.

Are Fat Injections Better than Dermal Fillers?

It might be easier to spot the differences between fat transfer and facelift surgery than between fat transfer and dermal fillers. These two injectable techniques seem to be the same. In terms of goals, they are quite similar. Dermal fillers are injected beneath lines, wrinkles, and areas where volume has been lost. So is harvested fat. The two are essentially interchangeable; but, there is one big difference. Fat cells are your tissue. Not only do your fat cells agree with your biology, never causing allergic reactions or rejection, but they can also remain in place indefinitely. Dermal fillers are generally benign in terms of creating adverse effects. However, they're only temporary. The primary reason people choose fat injections over dermal fillers is that they want to minimize or eliminate the need for subsequent touch-up treatments.

What to Expect During Recovery after a Fat Transfer Procedure?

One of the benefits of facial fat grafting treatment is that the process is minimally invasive. That said, there are two areas affected during the procedure, the harvest area and the recipient area. You can expect local swelling and bruising in each. Dr. Tarbet may advise you to take two to three days off work, and one to three weeks away from strenuous activity. To soothe inflammation and swelling, you can apply cool compresses for a few minutes, a few times a day. Sleeping with your head elevated helps to manage swelling. If you are prescribed pain medication, take it as directed for at least a few days. After 48 to 72 hours, you should be able to manage comfort with over-the-counter medication.

Will I Have Any Scarring after a Fat Transfer?

The safety profile of fat grafting is one of the benefits of this treatment. In this process, your fat serves as an organic facial filler. There is nothing synthetic inserted into your body. There are no foreign bodies. Your lines, creases, and contour irregularities are corrected with your own pure fat cells. Dr. Tarbet strictly adheres to safety protocols that ensure the most sterile environment and transfer of fat from one area to another.

Is Fat Grafting Safe?

The fat grafting process for facial rejuvenation does not incur significant incision lines. The doctor uses a small cannula to extract fat cells from one area and another small cannula or needle to inject the fat into areas of the face. The smallest possible needle is used to insert fat cells without compromising their vitality. The concern about scarring is minimal. Follow your aftercare instructions, particularly as they relate to sun exposure, and you should have little to no difficulty with your healing process after treatment.

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Dr. Tarbet will meet with you for a consultation to determine if your needs can be realistically obtained. She will then assess several areas of your body, such as thighs, abdomen, or hips, from which the fat is commonly harvested. Local anesthesia is injected at the harvest and treatment site to minimize discomfort.

The fat is then harvested through tiny incisions using a needle or liposuction, depending on the extent of the procedure you are having. The fat is then processed into the injectable form used for grafting. The fat is re-injected through very small incisions to the areas to be rejuvenated or depressions needing improvement. This procedure can be combined with other surgical procedures, such as facelift surgery or eyelid surgery for enhanced results.

The procedure is done on an outpatient basis and may take from 1-4 hours, depending on the number of regions to be grafted. Recovery typically takes 1-2 hours; however, if sedation is used, your recovery time may be longer. Patients may return to work as soon as 1 week, depending on their physical condition. Healing may take up to a year for the final result and you will follow up with your surgeon at regular intervals to monitor your progress.

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