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 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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