What is Fat Transfer?
A fat transfer procedure works by removing unwanted, excess fat through liposuction and injecting it into areas of the body where rejuvenation is desired. The face, breasts, and buttocks are three common areas that can be revitalized using fat injections.
This text will highlight the fat transfer procedure including how fat is removed from certain areas of the body using liposuction, the process of transferring fat into a targeted location, and what to expect after surgery.
Is it right for me?
For those who would like to decrease unwanted fat in specific body areas while restoring or adding volume to other areas of the body, a fat transfer can improve body contours and revitalize overall appearance.
How a Fat Transfer Works:
Over time, the contours of the body change due to the effects of aging, gravity, and weight. Additionally, unwanted fat may accumulate in areas such as the abdomen, back, buttocks, and thighs.
Signs of aging in the face and neck occur for many reasons, such as heredity, skin type, sun exposure, and lifestyle choices. Several areas of the face can be treated with a fat transfer including the cheeks, temples, chin, under-eye area, jawline, and lips. A fat transfer, sometimes performed in combination with a face lift, can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, frown lines, or depressions while revitalizing the contours of the face.
Women who are dissatisfied with the size of their breasts or have experienced changes in breast appearance can achieve fuller, shapelier breasts with a fat transfer breast augmentation. A fat transfer breast augmentation results in only a small increase in breast size, but offers natural-looking results.
Weight loss, aging, and heredity may cause you to be unhappy with the size and shape of your buttocks. A buttock augmentation using fat transfer can help add volume and create a more youthful, shapelier appearance.
Ideal candidates for fat transfer are:
Adults with a BMI under 30 who have firm, elastic skin and good muscle tone
Healthy individuals who do not have a life-threatening illness or medical conditions that can impair healing
Individuals with a positive outlook and specific goals in mind for body contouring
Fat Transfer is not a treatment for obesity or a substitute for proper diet and exercise.
Consultation and Preparing for Surgery
During your consultation be prepared to discuss:
Your surgical goals
Medical conditions, drug allergies, and medical treatments
Current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco, and drug use
Dr. Smith will also:
Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
Discuss your fat transfer options
Recommend a course of treatment
Discuss likely outcomes of fat transfer and any risks or potential complications
Prior to surgery, you may be asked to:
Get lab testing or a medical evaluation
Take certain medications or adjust your current medications
Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding
Liposuction should be performed in an accredited office-based surgical facility, licensed ambulatory surgical center, or a hospital. Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery and to stay with you for at least the first night following surgery.
Be sure to ask questions. It's very important to ask Dr. Smith questions about liposuction. It's natural to feel some anxiety, whether it's excitement for your anticipated new look or a bit of preoperative stress. Don't be shy about discussing these feelings with Dr. Smith.
Fat transfer surgery may last between one to four hours, depending on the complexity of the procedure and whether an additional procedure is performed at the same time.
Dr. Smith will meet you before surgery and carefully mark the areas where fat will be removed, and the areas where fat will be injected. These markings will be used as guidelines during the procedure.
Step 1 - Anesthesia
Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedure. The choices include local anesthesia, intravenous sedation, and general anesthesia. Dr. Smith will recommend the best choice for you.
Fat transfer may be performed under local anesthesia where only the surrounding area is numb. Alternatively, for procedures involving larger areas of the body, you may be asleep under general anesthesia. A special medicated fluid called tumescent fluid is injected into the areas that will be treated with liposuction. This fluid expands the tissues, to make it easier to remove fat cells, numbs the treatment area, and minimizes bleeding and bruising.
Step 2 – Fat Harvest with liposuction
Dr. Smith will begin the procedure by using liposuction to harvest your fat. Excess fat is removed from areas of the body including the jowls, back, abdomen, thighs, and buttocks. Most body fat is located on top of muscle tissue, just beneath the skin. Liposuction works by surgically removing excess fat with a suction device, resulting in improved contours in the desired area
Liposuction is performed through small, inconspicuous incisions. First, diluted local anesthesia is infused to reduce bleeding and trauma.
Then a thin hollow tube, or cannula, is inserted through the incisions to loosen excess fat using a controlled back and forth motion. The dislodged fat is then suctioned out of the body using a surgical vacuum or syringe attached to the cannula.
Step 3 – Fat transfer to the desired location
Dr. Smith will use a cannula to inject the fat cells into the desired location. Using a forward and backward motion, fat is slowly added in multiple areas until the desired volume and contour is achieved.
Step 4 – Closure
The incisions may be closed with sutures or may be left open. Lastly, absorbent pads are applied to protect the incision sites as you heal.
Your improved body contour will be apparent once the swelling and fluid retention commonly experienced following liposuction subside. With continued practices of healthy diet and fitness, the loss of excess fatty tissue should be permanently maintained. However, substantial weight gain can alter the results.
Risks and Safety
The decision to have liposuction is extremely personal. You will have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications are acceptable. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure and any risks and potential complications.
Dr. Smith will discuss risks such as cysts, infection, small mineral deposits called microcalcifications, and death of fat cells. You also may need to discuss options for future fat transfers as it may take more than one procedure to achieve your desired look.
The risks include:
Change in skin sensation that may persist
Damage to deeper structures such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles, lungs, and abdominal organs
Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
Irregular contours or asymmetries
Need for revision surgery
Poor wound healing
Rippling or loose skin, worsening of cellulite
These risks and others will be fully discussed prior to your consent. It is important that you address all your questions directly with Dr. Smith.
Recovery After Surgery
Most fat transfer procedures are completed in outpatient surgery facilities; you should be ready to go home the same day, usually within two to four hours.
Once your procedure is completed, a compression garment or elastic bandages may cover treatment areas. These help to control swelling and compress the skin to your new body contours.
You will be given specific instructions that may include how to care for the surgical site, medications to take orally to help manage your pain for the first few days, specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in your general health, and when to follow up with Dr. Smith.
Be sure to ask Dr. Smith specific questions about what you can expect during your individual recovery period:
Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery?
How long will I wear the compression garment?
Are stitches removed? When?
When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
When do I return for follow-up care?
It may take several months for the swelling to fully dissipate. As it does, your new contours and should continue to develop.
While you will most likely notice an improvement immediately after the procedure, final results will not be apparent until one year after surgery. You should have initial satisfaction with the size and shape of the fat transfer after surgery, however much of this is due to swelling and the results may diminish over time. Although fat cells are removed permanently during the procedure, it is important to realize that fat transfer does not prevent growth of remaining fatty tissue. Additionally, fat cells injected into the desired area may disperse from the injected area. Your results may also change if you gain or lose weight.
With realistic expectations and proper maintenance, you may enjoy the results of your fat transfer procedure for years.
Your improved body contour will be apparent when the swelling and fluid retention commonly experienced following liposuction subside.
The results of liposuction will be long lasting, provided that you maintain a stable weight and general fitness. As your body ages, it is natural to lose some firmness, but most of your improvement should be relatively permanent.
Although good results are expected from your procedure, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure and another surgery may be necessary.
Following Dr. Smith’s instructions is essential to the success of your surgery. It's important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion, or motion during the time of healing. Dr. Smith will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself.
Prices for fat transfer procedures can vary. The cost will be based on the type of procedure required to address your specific needs. Dr. Smith does offer patient financing plans, so be sure to ask.
You will be charged one fee and this will include:
Hospital or surgical facility costs
Medical tests (if required)
Post-surgery garments (if required)
Your satisfaction involves more than a fee. When choosing a plastic surgeon for fat transfer, remember that the surgeon's experience and your comfort with him or her is just as important as the final cost of the surgery.
Plastic surgery involves many choices. The first and most important is selecting a Plastic Surgeon you can trust. Plastic Surgeons such as Dr. Smith, certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada meet rigorous standards:
Board certification by Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada®
Completed five years of surgical training following medical school
Pass comprehensive oral and written exams
Complete continuing medical education, including patient safety
Perform surgery in accredited hospitals and surgical facilities
Following Dr. Smith’s Plastic Surgery residency, he completed an extra year of training, completing two additional clinical Fellowships to further his expertise in the field of Plastic Surgery. Please see his biography for more details.
Do not be confused by other official sounding boards and certifications. Be sure to choose a highly trained plastic surgeon who is board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
This procedural information is intended strictly for educational purposes. Only models are depicted in these procedural information pages. It is not intended to make any representations or warranties about the outcome of any procedure. It is not a substitute for a thorough, in-person consultation with Dr. Smith.