If you’ve ever heard of a Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL), then you already know what fat grafting is. A BBL is just one example of a fat transfer treatment, but patients can receive a fat injection in many other parts of the body too. At Silhouette Plastic Surgery Institute, we want you to feel confident in your body. If a fat grafting treatment will help you feel more confident, call us today at 949-359-8397 to schedule an appointment with board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Daneshmand.
What is Fat Grafting?
Fat grafting, also called fat injections, is basically a fat transfer from one part of the body to another. The fat grafting procedure is mostly performed for cosmetic purposes, but doctors have recently found that injected fat can heal wounds, scars, and even breast tissue that’s been damaged by chemotherapy.
Commonly Treated Areas for Fat Grafting
Qualified plastic surgeons can perform fat grafting on many areas of the body including the face, breasts, hips, buttocks, hands, and feet.
Facial fat grafting is a popular cosmetic surgery because of its ability to create a more youthful appearance in many patients. More specifically, a fat injection in the face can improve volume loss and wrinkles in these areas of the face:
- Under the eyes,
- Cheeks, and
- Nasolabial folds (the lines that begin around the bottom of the nose and extend to the corners of the mouth).
Facial fat grafts can also repair acne scars and improve overall skin texture. Fat grafting on the face is generally more affordable compared to the other body parts because it only requires 10cc to 100cc of the patient’s own fat.
Fat transfers are common in breast reconstruction treatments. Patients can undergo breast autologous fat grafting for cosmetic and medical reasons. Cosmetically, fat grafts in the breasts can improve asymmetry and augment the breasts by one to two cup sizes. Medically, this procedure can repair tissue damage due to chemotherapy, heal scars, and treat capsular contracture following implant surgery. Most plastic surgeons will recommend 25cc to 400cc of fat tissue for each breast.
Fat injected into the hips can add volume, therefore giving patients a more aesthetically pleasing waist to hip ratio. Most plastic surgeons will recommend 100cc to 300cc for each hip depending on your aesthetic desires.
Autologous fat transfer to the butt is also called a Brazilian Butt Lift. As you probably know, the results of a BBL are bigger, perkier buttocks. Most patients require 200cc to 1300cc of fat graft in each cheek for the best results.
Hands and Feet
Fat grafting for the hands is also called a hand rejuvenation procedure. Plastic surgeons can inject either fat cells or injectable fillers into the hands for the sake of volume augmentation and wrinkle reduction. Other options for hand rejuvenation include chemical peels, laser skin resurfacing, and laser ablation, all of which improve skin texture. Fat injections into the feet produce the same results as the hands: more volume and fewer wrinkles. For best results, your plastic surgeon will likely inject between 5cc to 10cc of fat graft in each extremity.
How Does Fat Grafting Work?
There are three basic steps in a fat grafting procedure: extracting the fat, processing the fat, and then injecting the fat.
Fat extraction happens via liposuction. So the plastic surgeon will pick a fatty donor area on your own body and then use a thin tube to suck out fatty tissue. It’s important to note that ultrasonic liposuction and laser liposuction aren’t appropriate for fat grafts because these procedures could possibly destroy the fat cells.
The next step is processing the harvested fat. More specifically, the fat is processed through decanting and centrifugation which removes extra fluid and dead cells from the viable fat cells. Some plastic surgeons may choose to wash the fat collected with a saline solution which has the same effect as decanting and centrifugation. If the surgeon doesn’t separate the dead cells from the viable ones, the dead ones would just die after injection anyway. The dead cells could also hinder the viable cells from doing their job.
The last step is the fat transfer into the recipient site of the body. Your plastic surgeon will inject the fat in very small amounts to make sure it has an adequate blood supply for survival. The amount of fat injected (measured in cc’s) varies based on your aesthetic and medical results.
Common Donor Sites for Fat Grafting
The most common donor areas for a fat grafting procedure are listed below.
- Inner thigh
- Lower back
As of now, there is no evidence suggesting that one of these donor areas is better for fat grafting than others.
What Kind of Anesthesia is Required for Fat Grafting?
The type of anesthesia needed during a fat grafting procedure generally depends on how much fat is removed from the donor site. If you’re getting a small number of cells extracted for hands, feet, or facial fat grafting, you will likely require local anesthesia. However, those undergoing BBLs usually require general anesthesia because the surgeon will likely extract more than 500cc of fat tissue.
Fat Grafting Recovery
Recovery from a fat grafting treatment will vary from patient to patient. Healing from fat injected into the face, hand, and foot will likely be quicker than a breast reconstruction or a BBL. This is because, as previously stated, the surgeon collects very little fat for smaller areas of the body. Generally speaking, patients can expect to recover from this cosmetic surgery within four to six weeks.
Fat grafting patients generally experience pain, swelling, bruising, and discomfort for several weeks. Post-op instructions for fat grafts vary from patient to patient. If fat is removed from your abdominal area, your surgeon will likely instruct you to wear compression garments for a few weeks. As for pain and swelling management, you can take surgeon-approved pain medications and ice the affected areas of the body for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Additionally, your surgeon will likely instruct you to clean your wounds and apply new dressings a few times a day. You may be able to return to work a few days or a week after your procedure, but specific healing timelines are different for everyone.
Fat Grafting Risks and Side Effects
As previously stated, almost every fat transfer patient will experience bruising, swelling, and pain in the days and weeks following their procedure. More severe fat transfer risks include:
- Blood clotting
- Contour deformities
- Asymmetry in the buttocks, hands, feet, breasts, or face, depending on the area treated with fat transfer
Just like every cosmetic surgery, autologous fat grafting comes with its own set of complications. Fat necrosis (fat cell death) and fat embolism (fat cells get lodged in a blood vessel and block blood flow) are rare complications, but they can still happen. If you notice one or more of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from fat necrosis or fat embolism and you should seek immediate medical attention.
- Firm round lumps near the treated area
- Confusion, seizures, or headache
- Racing heart or heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- A rash of little red dots on the arms or chest
Call Silhouette Plastic Surgery Institute Today
If you’re insecure about a part of your body or you’re recovering from radiation treatments, you may be an excellent candidate for a fat transfer procedure. Dr. Daneshmand at Silhouette Plastic Surgery Institute has performed thousands of cosmetic surgeries – including BBLs and other fat transfers – and will give you the best possible results. Don’t believe us? Check out our before and after galleries! Then, call us at 949-359-8397 to schedule an appointment.