Summary: While fat transfer isn’t a new technique, surgeons have spent many years learning more about the procedure to perfect it. Here, we take a closer look into the specific steps of fat transfer and discuss why it is so effective for patients.
When someone first hears about the concept of taking fat from one area of their body (where it stubbornly persists) and using it to augment another area (where it is actually desired), you might hear a hint of disbelief creep into their response.
“You’re completely delusional.”
OK, maybe that is more than a hint.
Researchers have been experimenting with fat transfer techniques for many years, but it’s only recently that they’ve become truly effective. Now fat transfer procedures, or “fat grafting” treatments, are quickly becoming one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries. Fat transfer breast augmentations and Brazilian butt lifts that use the technique have generated plenty of attention not only in the offices of plastic surgeons, but in health and beauty publications worldwide.
So how does it work? Fat grafting is a 3-step process:
- Fat removal: Using liposuction, a surgeon harvests fat from areas such as the thighs, abdomen, flanks, or buttocks.
- Fat processing: A specialized device that includes a centrifuge spins the fluid removed during liposuction, removing impurities such as blood and leaving behind only healthy fat cells.
- Fat injection: A surgeon meticulously injects the purified fat where it is wanted for cosmetic reasons.
Fat grafting is the ultimate win-win solution when it comes to body sculpting or facial rejuvenation. First, it eliminates problem fat deposits that diet and exercise haven’t helped. Then, it can be used to add volume and definition to other areas, such as the breasts and buttocks, instead of synthetic implants, or even as a substitute for facial fillers. The results look and feel natural.
Because surgeons harvest fat using liposuction, it’s important to understand the technique used. The range of liposuction techniques has proliferated significantly, and they are marketed under what can be some confusing names. What’s critical to remember is that you don’t want a surgeon who uses heat to melt the fat before sucking it from the body.
The surgeons at Calobrace & Mizuguchi Plastic Surgery Center use a technique called SAFELipo® when performing fat grafting procedures because it is so gentle. “Unlike some other forms of liposuction, SAFELipo does not generate any heat, so the risk of damaging surrounding tissue is minimized,” says the website of the liposuction specialists in Louisville, Kentucky. “This helps maintain circulation and reduces internal scarring and other complications.”
Laser liposuction and fat extraction using ultrasonic energy are the types to avoid, because they melt fat prior to its removal. That can be an effective technique when liposuction is performed as a standalone procedure, but it won’t produce healthy fat cells for grafting to other areas.
There are some limitations when it comes to fat grafting. For example, women considering breast augmentation can expect only a modest increase in the size of their breasts (about 1 bra cup size). And not all the fat survives the transfer process, meaning surgeons estimate how much is needed without knowing exactly what the final results will look like. Some surgeons may schedule multiple procedures over time to see how the fat “takes.”
But for anyone who is uncomfortable with the idea of having implants inserted, the improved fat grafting techniques now available are an exceptionally attractive option.