What's the Difference Between Cheek Implants and Fat Transfer?

My doctor said that he recommend that I should have fat transfer to my cheeks instead of cheek implants. But what are the pros and cons of each ? which one is better?

Doctor Answers (8)

Cheek implants vs fat transfer

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  Cheek implants would provide more predictable results than fat transfer.  However, there are the rare risks of migration and infection.  There are other ways to augment the cheeks including many types of facial fillers.


Saint Petersburg Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Implants vs Fat Transfer for Cheek Augmentation

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Cheek implants are permanent and helpful for severe problems whereas fat transfer helps the majority without the need for implants and also results in permanent improvement. Implants require an incision and internal pocket creation whereas fat is harvested by liposuction and injected.
Fat Cells that survive the transfer process continue to live like other fat cells and  the results are long lasting. The problem is not all transferred fat survives the process. In the face more than 75% may survive and more than 60% in the buttocks.. 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.

Fat Grafting Results Permanent improvement in most cases. Micro fat grafting, also called structural fat grafting involves multiple injections of very small amounts  of fat injected in a series of discrete layers to allow for better revascularization and "take", gradually increasing the volume of  new soft tissue. My experience is that it is a great minimally invasive procedure for cheek augmentation.
Fat Cells that survive this transfer process continue to live like other fat cells. Therefore 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%  or more will survive in the cheek region. 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 38 reviews

What's the Difference Between Cheek Implants and Fat Transfer?

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Dear Only_me,

thank you for your question.  In general, cheek implants give you a quick preditable result that is stable.  However, it is an implant and not you and can rarely get infected.  Fat injections can be permanent as well, but has more variability in that some patients accept the fat better than others.  However, no implant is involved.

Best wishes,

Pablo Prichard, MD

Pablo Prichard, MD
Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

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Fat vs cheek implants

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Only_me, Although I perform fat injections I do them sparingly. I know some of my colleagues feel otherwise and that is good for discussion purposes but in the majority of my patients I can achieve improvement in hollowness under the eyes and cheek area using other more predictable methods. One of the drawbacks of fat injections is that one has to over-fill to begin with to account for expected absorption of some of the transplanted fat. That in and of itself is the reason I use this approach sparingly as the percentage that injected fat gets absorbed is different for each patient. I’ve seen patients with little absorption who look over injected for a prolonged period of time; I’ve seen patients who absorb the transplanted fat fairly aggressively (they look fairly good for about a year but after that you can barely tell you did any injections) and I’ve seen patients that get a good result that can last several years. I don’t like doing things that have that much variability. As the originator of the SOOF lift blepharoplasty I can tell you that in my opinion this is the best procedure for improving the hollow look under the eyes that accompanies the aging process. I've been doing nothing but this procedure since I originally published this approach around 1999 in the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery and have only had one redo to date. For cheek’s I prefer a midface lift should they have adequate midface fat left and if not I prefer a cheek implant. All these techniques work predictably and last many years with little known risks. Good luck with your decision and as always see several facial aesthetic specialists, look at many photos and choose the one who makes you the most comfortable. 

M. Sean Freeman, MD
Charlotte Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Cheek implants are surgically placed but are permanent and give the best cheek definition

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Fillers are a very nice alternative to facial implants. Implants are solid implants made of inert silicone that are placed precisely over the cheeks (and other areas such as the chin) by a surgical procedure. The augmentation is precise and the results permanent. However it is a surgical procedure with a small incidence of potential and will take one to two weeks to recover from.

Facial fillers are a great alternative in that they can be injected in an exam room chair, have no down time and can last up to a year or more. Fat is a more permanent filler that is between fillers and implants in that it requires harvest similar to a surgical procedure. The definition may not be as precise as cheek implants in the long run though.

For any patients considering cheek implants I often try fillers such as Juvederm Ultra plus or Perlane as a trial to make sure they like the look first. 3-D imaging is also great for visualizing potential results.
 

Steven J. Pearlman, MD
New York Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Fat grafting or cheek implants.

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Fat grafting or cheek implants is a common good question. Fat can be removed from your body and put in your cheeks but it can have irregularities and absorption. That is why I prefer cheek implants--same size, no loss exact size, and only a rare infection as the downside. 

Toby Mayer, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Cheek implants versus fat transfer

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 Cheek implants are composed of Silastic, have the shape of  a wafer and are  inserted through intra-oral approach under brief general anesthesia. Cheek implants  give a very predictable result based on the size of the implant placed. Fat transfer involves harvesting fat from somewhere else in the body and injecting it underneath the skin in the cheek area.  Fat injections have a variable rate of resorption and sometimes have to be repeated. Fat is living tissue, therefore if patients gain weight, they will preferentially gain more weight in areas injected. Please see the link below for examples of what can be accomplished with cheek implants.

William Portuese, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 55 reviews

My doctor said that he recommend that I should have fat transfer to my cheeks instead of cheek implants. But what are the pros a

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A cheek implant is a permanent implant that is placed on your cheekbone through a small incision under your lip. Fat transfer involves taking some fat from the belly button or thigh area and injecting that under the skin in the cheek area. Fat transfer is less predictable because fat is living tissue that must obtain a blood supply after being injected. A highly variable amount of fat will be lost following the fat transfer procedure. If you choose fat transfer find a highly experienced Facial Plastic Surgeon to perform this procedure for you. I hope this information is helpful. 

Stephen Weber, MD, FACS
Denver Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 34 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.