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Fat Transfer for Long Term Results?

I am interested in fat transfer in between my nose and mouth and below my cheekbones jawline area. Will fat stay permanent or last for a long time in these areas? Or, is it more likely not to because there is too much movement in these areas?

Doctor Answers (6)

Fat Grafting Can Be Permanent - Things to Discuss with your Plastic Surgeon

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There is  a wide range of techniques, instrumentation and experience among the surgeons that perform this surgical procedure.  Because of the tremendous variability in all of these factors, there is tremendous variability in fat grafting results.  To perform fat grafting successfully and reproducibly a surgeon must employ careful preoperative planning, appropriate instrumentation and meticulous surgical technique.  It is not something you can 'rush through' or spend just a few minutes on during a larger surgical procedure.  The unfortunate reality is that not everyone who performs fat grafting is willing to put in the level of education, training, investment in instrumentation and operative effort required to produce aesthetically ideal results.

One must also have an aesthetic vision for ideal and youthful-appearing facial fullness.   Just like traditional facelift surgery can be overdone or performed incorrectly to produce an unnaturally tight, pulled, 'windswept' look, fat grafting can be overdone to produce an excessively full and even bizarre postoperative appearance.  Too much fat grafted into any area (or any fat placed where it doesn't belong) looks unnatural.  It's analogous to breast augmentation results: if the surgeons selects an appropriate implant volume and positions the implants correctly, the patient gets a beautiful, natural-appearing breast enhancement.  If the surgeons stuffs a pair of 500cc implants behind the breasts of an average-sized patient, then that patient ends up with a cartoonish 'boob job'.  I think many of the unfavorable results in fat grafting are from the overzealous placement of excessive amounts of fat, which may have been the inevitable response to the recent paradigm shift in aesthetic facial surgery: away from the 'wind tunnel look', and towards the restoration of soft tissue volume.


For transferred fat to truly qualify as a 'graft' the following must happen: living tissue must be transferred to a new location, and that tissue must gain a blood supply at the new location which provides oxygen and nutrients which allow it to persist indefinitely as living tissue.  We know that with appropriate instrumentation and technique this is achievable, so one of the opinions expressed in this thread that "most of the cells from fat injection are dead " is simply untrue (and structural fat grafting, to be clear, does not involve 'injection' of fat).  MRI studies have shown that with appropriate technique grafted fat persists long-term as living, vascularized tissue in the recipient site.

It is also well-established that adult human fatty tissue contains stem cells that have the capacity to repair damaged or injured tissues, and stem cells can be concentrated during the fat harvesting process.  This effect has applications in both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.  Fat grafting is now being used, for example, as a means to stimulate the repair of chronic, non-healing wounds.  Several centers have reported on fat grafting immediately below non-healing chronic wounds resulting from radiation therapy for cancer, with rapid improvement and eventual healing of wounds for which no other wound treatment was successful.  The development of stem cell therapies involving the harvesting and processing of viable human fatty tissue is one of the hottest topics in both clinical and experimental medicine today.

When performed correctly fat grafting actually has the capacity to heal, revitalize and rejuvenate the local tissues at the recipient site.  I have treated a number of patients with facial fat atrophy following overly aggressive 'non-invasive' rejuvenation treatments including Thermage, Fraxel and IPL.  Most of these patients report not only an aesthetically  pleasing and permanent improvement in facial soft tissue volume, but also an improvement in the quality and vitality of their facial skin.

I perform extensive facial fat grafting during most of my facial rejuvenation procedures, and it is the very first thing I do - before making any incisions to lift the brows, eyelids, face or neck.  Fat grafting allows me to obtain results that are simply not possible with conventional, subtractive surgical techniques alone.  Patients frequently return for grafting of additional areas after their initial experience with strucutral fat grafting.  To characterize it as the pointless and potentially harmful placement of non-viable tissue is an opinion only, and it is an opinion with which quite a number of plastic surgeons who successfully rejuvenate faces (and breasts and bodies) with fat grafting would vehemently disagree, myself included.

Solid fat/fascia and fat dermis grafts are another means by which facial soft tissue volume may be significantly and permanently enhanced.  As with fat grafting, survival of the grafted tissue is variable and some of the graft material is reabsorbed.  As with fat grafting, potential complications such as infection and cyst formation are possible.  And as with fat grafting, appropriate preoperative planning and surgical technique are required in order to obtain ideal and lasting results.  In my opinion structural fat grafting is more versatile, as fat can be easily and rapidly added to any tissue plane (level); and it has the added benefit of the ‘stem cell effect’ which is difficult to quantify but unquestionably present in many cases.

Both structural fat grafting and fascia-fat (or dermis-fat) grafting can be competently performed (or not) by Board-certified plastic surgeons.  Neither should be trademarked or considered proprietary.

As with any surgical procedure take time researching your plastic surgeon. Schedule several consultation, view many photos from many patients, each from multiple perspectives (start by looking at photos on this website) and speak to former patients of any plastic surgeon you are considering.
 

Web reference: http://michaellawmd.com

Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

Good candidate for fat grafting

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Fat grafting works very well for the locations that you mention.  A certain percentage (typically 40-50%) of the grafted fat will survive and stay permanently

Web reference: http://www.seattleface.com/html/before_n_after_set.php?procedure=fat_injection&id=08

Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 126 reviews

Fat graft survival in the face and alternative fillers

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Fat grafting can provide wonderful long term improvment and can even provide some degree of secondary skin rejuvenation benefiets in my long experience using it. The only problem is that the degree of long term survival varies from individual to individual. I have seen many patients return years later with lasting benefits, and a few (often younger patients) in whom the long term survival of the fat has been less than optimal.

Your alternative in my opinion is to have certain but shorter term improvement from injectables such as Juvederm (in my experience, it lasts 9 months to up to 2 years) without undergoing minor surgery.

There is probably no perfect answer for everyone. Weigh your options and then make your choice.

Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Fat Transfer for Long Term Results

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Hi,

Fat transfer is excellent with long lasting results in the areas of your concern. The key to choose an experienced and skilled physician in the use of fat sculpting. Also consider volumizing your temple area.

An alternative to fat transfer to achieve your facial cosmetic goals would be Sculptra, again in the hands of an experienced physician.

Good luck and be well.

Dr. P

Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

Longevity of fat transfer

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As you pointed out, movement decreases the "take" of grafted tissues whether they are skin grafts or fat grafts. The survival, or take, of the fat requires that the blood vessels in the injected fat hook up with blood vessels in the bed where they are injected. If that happens, the fat is alive and permanent. If it does not happen you will mop up the dead fat over a few months. So whatever is still there at 3 months is usually permanent.

Web reference: http://www.randcosmeticsurgery.com

Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 44 reviews

Facial fat loss

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Fat transfer could provide you with long term correction of the areas that you have delineated. Seek a consultation with surgeons in your area who have experience with this technique.

Web reference: http://www.bodysculptor.com/index.html

Chicago Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.