I need this done, however I am very fearful of the "what if's", especially this complication. Is this a 1 in 1000, or? I would really appreciate the overall statistics in general. Thank you
Risk of Pulmonary Embolism During Fat Transfer?
Doctor Answers (7)
Risk of PE in fat transfer
With large volume fat transfers in areas with large vessels such as the buttocks, there is a risk of pulmonary fat embolism. In the face, there has never been a report of a PE with fat transfer and it although I never say never, I would say the risk is extremely small and not quantifiable.
Cosmetic Fat Transfer and Risks Involved
Big fat transfers to areas such as the buttocks constitute big surgery and carry some risk of PE, albeit low. Tiny fat transfers to the face carry nearly zero risk. Seek a surgeon certified by the ABPS who will study your health (very important) and advise you. Excellent ABPS surgeons realize that they must do everything to keep patients safe as well as have great results. If all is done corectly, risks are very minimal.
Fat transfer cannot result in pulmonary embolism
Fat transfer of the face cannot result in pulmonary embolism if performed correctly because there are no large vessels in the fat which can transfer the injection to the lungs.
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Fat grafts: Pulmonary Embolism vs Fat Embolism
There are 2 types of embolism that you may be thinking about.
Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blood clot that typically forms in the legs and can travel to your lungs where it may cause serious problems including death. This is a risk with almost any major surgical procedure. The risk of PE depends on the length of surgery, your age, your overall health and many other risk factors (Google: Caprini risk factors). If the fat grafting procedure involves only small volumes of fat and is done using a local anesthetic, then the risk for PE is almost zero.
Fat embolism (FE) if much less common and has been seen after significant bone fractures, liposuction, and rarely after fat grafting. We don't have enough information to know all the risk factors and overall statistics. However, based on available information, the risk is very low (less than 1 in 1000) but at least one death that followed facial fat grafts was linked to fat embolism.
Pulmonary Embolus and Fat Grafting
Every surgical procedure carries some risk of complication. The risk of DVT and possibly a pulmonary embolus related to the deep venous thrombosis after fat grafting are quite low (but not zero). These is a phenomenon called "Fat Embolus" which can occur with injection of fat. If fat is injected into a vein, it can travel to the central circulation of the heart and lungs- possibly causing a fatal problem. That said, the risk of fat embolus, in the hands on qualified plastic surgeons should also be quite low.
I suggest that you look at the "Fat Transfer/Fat Graft and Fat Injection ASPS Guiding Principles" published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (and available on its web site) for more information.
There are risks with every procedure and the removal of fat for fat injections does carry with it some risks, but the risk of a pulmonary embolus related to the procedure is very low if it is a small procedure and peformed as a sole treatment. Risks increase when multiple procedures are done together and there is a lot of fat removal, which is not the case normally with fat injections.
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.