Ask a doctor

Are Fat Transfer Results Permanent?

Doctor Answers 48

Have a question? Ask a doctor

Are Fat Transfer Procedures Permanent?

Hi Ang,

When performed using proper techniques of harvesting fat, treating the fat, and then injecting the fat, the fat that survives is permanent living fat. The techniques of Coleman, Lam, and Glasgold have been proven to stand the test of time. The percentage of fat transferred that survives varies from about 40 to 60% with these techniques.

I have personally seen the fat transfers in my patients to be permanent. The fat that is there after 6 months will be with them for the rest of their lives. The key is choosing your fat transfer surgeon most carefully.

Good luck and be well.

Dr. P


Encino Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

Fat grafts have the potential to be permanent

Ang47,

Fat grafting has revolutionized plastic surgery. More and more uses are popping up every day. However, there is still an element of unpredictability to fag graft survival. In most cases the grafts survive. However, there is a chance that some if it will be absorbed by the body. As newer techniques are developed such as micro fat grafting, the percentage of viable fat transfers is increasing. I feel you should not over correct, since if all the fat survives, you will look over corrected. Also, if you gain weight, you will also gain weight in this transfered fat. The best plan is to put just as much as you need, with the expectation that you may need a second treatment if the first graft does not completely take. I hope this is helpful.

David Shafer, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 63 reviews

Fat transfer results

We have performed experiments on the survival of Coleman aspirated fat grafts. We have published these stueies in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and presented them at ASAPS and ASPS meetings. We believe the initial viability to be around 20-25%. Final survival is even lower.

The issue is how viability is assessed. If you look at cells grossly, the viability is high. If however you use trypan blue exclusion techniques or metabolic studies, the number of live cells from fat injection is anywhere from 3% alive to 25% alive. That is the starting number. It goes down from there as cells either survive or do not survive.

Clinically, patients complain that fat grafting does not last, but that usually some does remain. this is consistent with our findings experimentally.

Brent Moelleken, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 106 reviews

Are Fat Transfer Results Permanent?

Fat transfers have taken us a long way from the old adage of “getting old was gravity pulling down on your face”.  The current thinking is that patients lose volume in their face in soft tissue and bone and they need to have this volume replaced to rejuvenate the face.  Many patients have an ample supply of fat to be used as donor sites for the fat transfers.  After the fat is harvested, it is centrifuged and concentrated, and then the associated liquid is drained and the resultant concentrated fat is placed in a small syringe to be injected.  I use it in the face during face lifts and these fat injections are a godsend to rejuvenate the face.  The effect is quite permanent in the patient.  Likewise if a butt augmentation is desired the fat specimen is inserted into the deficiencies of the buttocks.

Paul Vitenas, Jr., MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

Fat Transfer Results Are Long Lasting

Fat Cells that survive the transfer process continue to live like other fat cells. Therfore the results are long lasting. The problem is not all transferred fat survives the process. In the face for example it has been estimated that up to 60% will survive. Of most interest is that the fat that does survive behaves as if it was still in the donor site. Therefore as the surrounding native fat tends to atrophy the transferred fat will not. Over time you will notice that the area may not be as full as it once was, but more than likely it is because of the native fat atrophy rather than the transferred fat.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

Is fat transfer permanent?

I think there are several camps out there when it comes to fat transfer, so it depends who you ask.  I have always been a strong believer in fat transfer, and have over 15 years experience with the procedure.  I believe fat volume loss is probably the #1 factor in facial aging for most people, and therefore it logically follows we should replace the fat loss.  As others have said, it is very technique dependent (both on the surgeon's expertise and how he/she does the procedure), from what part of the body the fat is harvested, and to where on the face it is transferred.  These are a lot of variables, and that is why doctors have many opinions on the success and longevity of the procedure.  Perhaps the most important point is that the doctor have a good idea of what he/she can achieve, and then adequately discuss this with the patient at their preoperative consultation to set up appropriate expectations.

Most recently is the discovery that fat holds the highest concentration of stem cells in the body, and these are also transferred to the recipient site.  These stem cells take on the properties of the surrounding tissues, and so you can imagine the potential future possibilities of what we will be doing in the next 5-10 years to rejuvenate facial skin.  Very exciting!

Yes, I do believe I can achieve very long lasting (years) results with fat transfer.  I have seen in many times in my patients.

Yoash R. Enzer, MD 

Yoash R. Enzer, MD, FACS
Providence Oculoplastic Surgeon
3.5 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Fat grafting is permanent with appropriate technique

Fat grafting is an excellent option for facial rejuvenation. Once the fat takes, it will survive just like it did before, but only in a different place, so it will behave like normal fat getting larger or smaller as you lose or gain weight. However fat grafting is very technique sensitive, and surgeons who do not pay attention to each aspect of the process may not get consitent results. Every component of the procedure  from fat harvesting, to fat purification, and the actual micrografting, can make a difference. With careful attention to every step, anywhere from 70-90% take of the injected fat can be expected to survive with each injection. We have installed the first Liquid Gold mini fat bank in the US, and with just one liposuction procedure we are able to successfully store enough fat to allow most people a lifetime of fat for facial rejuvenation purposes. Because the actual amount of fat that takes is not 100% predictable, I prefer not to place any more fat at the initial procedure then looks good. I do not overgraft, as if a high percentage takes then one will have to much. Having fat banked makes it easy to simply add a little more fat as needed without another liposuction procedure. We simply thaw a small amount of fat when needed, and inject it just like any other filler.

Jeffrey Hartog, MD
Orlando Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 46 reviews

How Permanent is Fat Transfer?

The technique of fat transfer has been improved with the use of delicate transfer of fat with low pressure removal with handheld syringes, centrifuge to remove excess fluid and injection with blunt tipped needles which inject tiny amounts allowing for better in growth of blood supply.   With proper technique, called the "Coleman technique" fat transfer will have excellent long term survival.  Use of liposuction machines and thick injections will have the opposite effect. 

Elizabeth S. Harris, MD
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 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.