Introduction to Face Fat Transfer
Fat transfer (or fat injections or lipofilling) involves taking fat cells from one area of the body (usually stomach or thighs) and transferring it to another location on the body or face. Fat transfer is designed to fill in wrinkles, imperfections or scars as well as to boost the volume of lips or cheeks to create a smoother and naturally fuller look. Here at Sthetix, our Medical Director Mr Alvi was the first to introduce this procedure (for breast reconstruction) to the North West of England and since then the Sthetix team has been performing fat transfer with fantastic results.
Who is suitable?
Patients undergoing fat transfer choose it for a range of reasons. Some patients have suffered from injuries or undergone surgeries that have left them with deep scars or defects whereas others simply would like to restore lost volume to their cheeks, lips or brows. Fat transfer can improve defects and boost the overall appearance of certain areas.
In order to be a suitable candidate for fat transfer, we require you to have enough fat on your body (we usually take it from the abdomen, buttocks or hips) so we can extract it ready to be transferred. We will talk you through this in detail at the consultation stage.
Before the surgery, we will arrange full consultation with one of our expert Consultant Plastic Surgeons so you can talk through what to expect and ask any questions.
There are also several things we require so that your procedure goes as smoothly as possible.
One of the most important things is to stop smoking as smoke introduces toxins into the blood that can increase the risk of healing problems, skin loss and complications. We also ask that smokers stop at least 6 weeks before their surgery date and don’t start again, for at least 6 weeks, preferably not at all, as smoking significantly reduces fat survival.
We also ask patients who are undergoing this procedure to stop taking oral contraceptive pills (alternative methods are fine), aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs. This is because some of those pills can increase the risk of bleeding. And finally, we ask that patients do not take off-the-shelf herbal medicines or nutritional supplements.
To ensure that you are fully prepared for the surgery, we will ask you to attend a medical examination at a pre-operative assessment clinic where certain tests may be carried out to ensure your safety during anaesthesia and surgery.
The procedure and risks
The procedure is usually carried out under a general anaesthesia (smaller procedures can be done under local anaesthetic), takes around 1-3 hours and you can either go home the same day or stay overnight in hospital, depending on your individual case.
During the procedure, the surgeon will take the amount of fat needed from a suitable area (usually abdomen, buttocks or hips). The fat is then prepared, excess blood and fluid is removed and it is then transferred into small syringes. Using a specially designed cannula, the fat is then injected into the desired area via tiny punctures in the skin.
The key to fat survival is in the injection of microdroplets of fat that allow them to take up a blood supply to survive (see below).
During the procedure, your skilled surgeon will deposit microdroplets of fat in a 3 dimensional grid to enhance the volume of the tissue whilst allowing as much of the fat to survive as possible. This is a tricky procedure and can only be performed by the most highly skilled surgeons including those on our team here at Sthetix.
After surgery, you can expect the donor area and the area of body that received the fat to be swollen and possibly bruised. The swelling takes a week or two to settle down. Over the first 3 months following the procedure, there may be an apparent loss of volume and this is related to reduction of swelling and absorption of fat cells that fail to pick up a blood supply. However, we usually expect up to 70% of the transferred fat to survive.
Risks associated with fat transfer to the face are relatively rare but may include: swelling, redness, bruising, lumps of fat under the skin, unevenness, infection, abscess, excessive bleeding and scarring. Certain complications occur very rarely, and these include loss of vision or loss of a small area of skin. If you have fat injected into two or more areas, asymmetry is also a risk.
As your wellbeing is our number one priority we offer a comprehensive and personalised aftercare package, all included in your treatment.
After you are discharged, we will provide you with post-operative care instructions and you will have 24-hour access to trained staff who will be on hand to advise you should you have any questions or concerns.
After the surgery, we will arrange appointments for follow-up examinations with your surgeon to monitor your progress and check that you are recovering well (it usually takes 2-4 weeks to recover and heal from this procedure and patients are advised to wear a compression garment on the donor site for 6 weeks afterwards, if needed).
Two weeks after surgery, one of our trained staff will see you and check your wounds. Your surgeon will see you after 6 weeks for a follow-up and again after that until you are fully recovered. These follow-ups are standard and will be provided at no extra cost.
In the unlikely event of a problem, we’ll immediately make arrangements for you to be seen by trained staff and (if needed), by the surgeon who performed the procedure. As the Sthetix surgeons live and work locally, you can always see your surgeon at relatively short notice. After performing the surgery our surgeons don’t leave the country or the local area. Very rarely, a surgeon may leave the local area for other commitments but if this happens, we will ensure that there is another trained plastic surgeon from our team available to provide you with comprehensive care.
In the unlikely event of a complication directly related to your surgery, we would provide or arrange further surgery and/or treatment at no extra cost for up to 1 year.
How long will the recovery period take?
The recovery period varies from person to person, but for most patients it takes around 2-4 weeks.
When will I see results?
You will see results immediately but the final results will only be clear once everything has settled.
When can I go back to work?
Depending on the size of the area, you may find you can return to work immediately but we recommend avoiding strenuous activity in the affected area.
Will I have scars?
Usually, fat transfer leaves tiny (1-2mm) scars which will fade with time.
How much fat will survive?
We normally expect anything from 50-70% of the fat to survive.
How many procedures would I need?
For the face, usually one surgery is enough. However in certain cases, 2 or 3 procedures are needed, depending on the individual patient’s requirements