For patients seeking permanent enhancement of soft tissue volume, the ideal material to use would obviously be something that is naturally-occurring and not rejected by the body or treated by the immune system as a foreign material. Whether the goal is to restore volume to an area such as the lips or the cheeks, or to fill in a crease or depression such as the nasolabial folds or marionette lines, the ideal material is quite clearly the material that one wishes was there in greater abundance in the first place: YOUR OWN FAT.
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