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Fat Transfer...don't Do It. -Beverly Hills, CA

My experience with fat transfer has been nothing...

My experience with fat transfer has been nothing less than a nightmare that I can't seem to wake up from. Two years ago I was talked into this procedure when I went to have a breast implant replacement.

I actually never had any intention of doing anything to my face. In fact, I thought I looked pretty good for a 60 year old woman and was often told I looked far younger than my age. But he convinced me it was a totally safe, non-surgical procedure that would "perk up my look". I was assured there was absolutely no down-side or risk. I was sponsoring my high school reunion 4 months later & he assured me I would be completely healed by that time. Since I was going to be under anesthesia for the implants anyway, I decided to go ahead.

That decision has turned out to be one of the worst mistakes of my life. Not only was I unable to attend my class reunion, I was too ashamed too leave my home for nearly a year and thereafter only with sunglasses on. My face still looks like a puffed up goldfish. Huge cheeks and no hollow left below them (hollows that I specifically asked to remain). I was grossly "overfilled" and it has never gone down. But the worst part was my eyes. I was left with several hard lumps just above my eyelids near the brow bone, puffy & drooping lids and a sac of loose fat under one eye. The lower lid (the pink waterline) was exposed on one eye. The normal crease of my lid had disappeared and the skin above my eyes was crepey where it had previously been smooth. My once large eyes looked like pinholes and the shape of my eyes was completely changed...and not in a good way. One eye looked completely different from the other. For the first 3 months, I was told it was just temporary, that it would improve over time. That didn't happen. The only place the fat did not persist was the laugh lines, the only place I actually needed it.

In the 4th month I was foolish enough to let the original PS attempt a revision on my eyes. That only made matters worse. It left me with scars from the attempt to recreate a crease in my lid as well as a failed attempt to remove the lumps. After a year, I consulted with several eye surgeons to see what could be done. All agreed it was a disastrous outcome & said that FT should never have been used anywhere near my eyes. One tried injections of 5FU to reduce the lumps, but that was unsuccessful. Surgery was my only other recourse and because of the scars & the difficulty of removing the fat, I was told to expect only minimal improvement. It took an additional year of consults before I worked up the nerve to have the surgery. I simply had to get my life back, even if only marginally.

I am still in the recovery stage, just 6 weeks post op, so not sure how much improvement I might end up with. So far, the sac under the left eye appears to be gone where he removed the fat and repositioned my own to smooth it over. A couple of lumps still persist, but are smaller. He reshaped my eyelids and tho not perfect, are somewhat closer to my originals. The revisions on the previous scars are better...less raised and placed where they are not as noticeable. My eyes still look smaller than before the FT, but he did the best he could given the what he had to work with. I am not the same as before FT, but I've done all that is possible near my eyes without further risk. When I recover from this physically & financially, I will still need to address the huge cheeks, but that will have to wait.

The cost of multiple consults, injections, airfare & hotels for multiple trips to CA, and the surgery is now well over $30,000...and I still don't look like myself. The time wasted on trying to fix this can never be regained. But the worst cost of all has been my loss of self-confidence & self-esteem. I am not the same person. I'm not sure if I will ever really except what has happened. Please don't do this to yourself. Read the many reviews with similar results...and by many different PS. The FT procedure is simply too risky. And if it goes bad, there is little hope of a fix...something they don't tell you when you enter into this. If you must do something, stick with temporary fills. They will cost you far less in the long run.

Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Chahin was actually very nice up until the situation with the fat transfer procedure went bad. He assured me that any problems could be easily remedied in a follow-up visit. No problem. When that didn't happen, and in fact got worse, his attitude changed. Distant and defensive, both he & his staff continued to deny there was a problem at all. What I found particularly insulting was the charade they put on by insisting that I "looked just great". No other person (friends, family, or physicians) shared that view. For the past 2 years, I've spent over $30,000 trying to have the lumps, scars, & distortion repaired by other PS and am still facing more procedures simply in an effort to look somewhat normal. Adding insult to injury, after repeated requests for my surgical records & pre/post-op photos from Dr. Chahin, they were ultimately sent attached to a lengthy statement that claimed that I had been informed of all the risks of FT (lumping, scarring, & distortion) prior to surgery. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not one of those words was ever mentioned at any time even after I specifically asked what the "downside" could be. Equally disturbing was his inference that I had "unrealistic expectations" on the results. Since I had never heard of Fat Transfer before entering his office, my only expectations were those offered by himself. Before that day, I had no intention of doing anything at all to my face & was there for an entirely different procedure, a breast implant reduction. I was actually quite satisfied with my face using only occasional temporary fillers. The FT was sold by him as a cost & convenience alternative to temporary fills. I "expected" I would look much the same after FT, but only for a longer period of time. Nothing more. At my final appt, I informed him of the numerous complaints I found online & from people experiencing the same problems with FT. I suggested he might consider not continuing to perform such a risky procedure on others given the sheer number of those bad experiences. Instead of concern, he insisted that he had heard of no such complaints & actually continued to extol the virtues of FT. He dismissed the complaints as insignificant & fabricated. Unbelievable, as he was starring directly into my own distorted, puffy, lumpy, scarred result that he himself had done! Up until that point, I was still willing to give him the benefit of doubt that he truly didn't know just how damaging FT could be & how often it occured. I no longer maintain that view & strongly suggest you steer as far away as possible from this procedure & the doctors who indiscriminately use it with little regard for the risk to their patients.

1 out of 5 stars Overall rating
1 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
1 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
1 out of 5 stars After care follow-up
3 out of 5 stars Time spent with me
1 out of 5 stars Phone or email responsiveness
2 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
3 out of 5 stars Payment process
3 out of 5 stars Wait tmes
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Hi - I am sorry that this too, happened to you. I do understand the changes, and the losses and what I do believe, also, the things that can never be recovered. I am proud of you though for not giving up, and finding that beauty that i know is still in there and reaching out to try a revision. From your words, it sounds like there may be some sunshine on the other side. Not a rainbow, but at least some sunshine. Darn these plastic surgery procedures. If only when they went wrong that they didn't seem to consume and stifle every single part of us. I just had no idea that something like this could ever happen to me. Even, if I accepted what was done to my thighs, i had no idea that everything else on the body would change before my eyes. I do sympathize with you as I can hide my errors. And I do think that being amazing at 60 like yourself and complimented so much is a double whammy when something that you didn't even want, turned out poorly. Hang in there. Really do. Keep the forum updated as you progress and I truly hope you get to a point where you will go out again and feel confident. I'd like that for you.
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Thanks so much Natters for your kind words. I think, however, that I'm finally at a place where I have come to terms with accepting what is. My moonface has gone down enough after this 3rd year where I think I can live with it. I do worry that if I try to do much more, it will just make matters worse. At the very least, I need to take a breather for awhile. I don't feel quite like my old self, the person in the mirror is still sometimes a stranger to me, but there is a point when you have to accept that it's time to put the regrets aside and move on. I still return here to RealSelf not necessarily in search of the elusive fix anymore, but rather to share my experience. With hopes that, if I can save even just one person from having to go thru what I have, I can find some solace or put some positive spin on an unfortunate mistake. I have to admit I was shocked when I discovered so many young women (20's, 30's, 40's) at this site. I had assumed FT was something only people around my age would need or venture into. But then I remembered how my PS made the procedure sound so benign and non-evasive. Who wouldn't want to do something to get rid of some bothersome flaw if it was really that easy? So at this point, I hope I might serve as the voice of reality ...to at least a few people... if only to let them know what "could" go wrong...and just how bad it could be. I am disturbed that an MD would even consider putting such young people at risk of ruining their faces, permanently, without informing them beforehand of what could, and has, gone wrong. As distressing as it was for me at 60, I can't even imagine how devastating this would be to someone far younger & who have their whole lives ahead of them. To gamble their futures, is just so, well...wrong. And I also hope that whenever possible, I might help other women like myself, who found this site after the damage was done, to get thru that dreadful period of depression & regret when you really need some handholding by someone who's been in their shoes & can genuinely empathize with what they are going thru. Well meaning friends & family don't really "get it" quite the same way, try as they might. So, while I still admit to having those days when I want to put a blanket over my head & scream out loud...for the most part now I'm reasonably sane & pressing on. I'm okay. If nothing else, I would like people going thru this trauma to know, that it will get better. Maybe not perfect, maybe not every day, but it will get better.
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Yes. I agree. I do think that it is incredibly hard at any age to go through and at 48, I don't think I could have survived if I was in my 20's or so. I really do understand about you though as this surgery has definitely aged me 20 years. Honestly, so if you have made it to 60 and are still doing well, then that to me means, that you are 'extra special' and to have it changed it also equally as hard. I don't know, i too , have come to accept this, but I still cry quite a bit. The depression takes it toll. This place is a wonderful place to share stories, and support one another though. I don't feel so alone being here. Several people have held my hand as I have struggled and I too, want to help others understand that they are not alone and that I really do understand. You are so right, none of my friends or family really understand this. Thanks for your reply. Take Care.
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I am pleased to hear that you have finally got a correction but sad it wasn't quite successful enough. I have basically had to accept the fact that my self esteem will never be regained, that it's gone forever and that's that. Now I just work all the time to try and push it to the side. Fat transfer just hooks you into further risky and costly procedures to correct what is essentially a ridiculous filler that could have been a different, dissolvable kind of filler that would've been long gone and forgotten by all. Just tragic really. I think you're brave for undergoing surgery and don't blame you for not wanting more. For this reason, it's a real shame that non surgical methods haven't evolved enough to be used on facial fat grafts gone bad. The non invasive treatments are still pretty expensive to try out and very variable as to whether they work or not. From my research, the most precise ones seem to be the HIFU machines like the ultherapy which allow you to see the tissue you're targeting underneath. I saw on youtube that HIFU is being used to shrink scar nodules from permanent fillers but whether it actually can destroy fat is anyone's guess. From my reading, it seems that it causes fat cells to release their contents rather than outright kill them. In terms of my corrections, I am finally trying some injections next month so we'll see. Taking it slowly and seeing where that gets me. I was so horrified by the experience I could not face going to the doctors for a long time. You just get that "dropped face" look like you've walked in there with a bomb. I also don't really know what to "look for" in a plastic surgeon now. I don't think all plastic surgeons are bad, nor are all plastic surgeons who do a number on fat transfers bad. It's just a hell of a silly craze, a bit like PRP is now a craze, and will go away in time. But for ppl who've had it go wrong, it will never go away soon enough.
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Hi Unoq, I had a facelift and fat transfer to my cheeks 6 weeks ago. Since the initial swelling went down, I could see two things that appeared to have gone wrong: 1) the cheek area looks overfilled; 2) the left side looks more like an implant with more definition. In either case, at this point it doesn't look good. My PS tells me to wait another 6 weeks for the swelling and fat to decrease. In the meantime, I'm looking at other possible solutions in case the fat continue to be an issue. Please let me know how the injections go. I've been reading some of the comments from the doctors who recommend cortisone/steroid injections to decrease the fat. Is that the type of injections you are going to pursue? Thanks, Ruz
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Do not touch it for a year. And don't let anyone inject steroids. Please listen to those if who tried to fix things. Do not touch it for 12 months.
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Good advice RR about leaving it alone for a year. Takes that long to see what you are up against.
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Thank you! It is good to hear from those who have had the experience dealing with overfilling from fat transfer. It is just so hard to wait, but I understand that doing things can compound the problem. I wish I had done more research before instead of looking at some of the pictures my PS had on his website. Of course, they only show good results, not those who are not happy with their outcomes. Ruz
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It has been the longest year of my life. And I went to a " top doc". It doesn't matter. Fat is unpredictable , expense, and in many cases, a nightmare. Sorry you're going through this.
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Hi Ruz, sorry i didn't see this comment. How is your fat grafting doing, as it must have been 10 weeks now. Have you had any more contact with your doctor?
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Hi Unoq, Although there has been a decrease in volume and the cheek area looks softer, I'm still not happy with the way I look. The left cheek looks more pronounced; at certain angles, I look weird (want to use the word ugly). I have a video conference with my doctor on Saturday, and I will ask him about how much fat he injected and the technique he used. Up to now, he has not provided me with this information, so I hope that he will be honest when we speak. Thanks for checking on me! Ruz
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Ruz, I think you still can hold out hope that it will get better. You are still at the early stages at 5 weeks. I felt mine continued to go down up to about 6 mos...& slightly more up to a year. My main problem was lumping, that's what ended up being permanent. It sounds like you don't have that problem, so that's a good sign. The fullness in my cheeks did eventually go down, not as much as I would have liked, but better. If you've gone down in the first 5 weeks, then you have a good chance of losing more. Not time to panic yet.
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Dear Notsogood, Thank you for your words of encouragement. As of yesterday, I made the 10 week mark, but it is still good to hear that in your experience the FT continued to decrease up to the 6 months, and slightly more up to a year. Since my doctor told me that whatever was there at 3 months would be what would likely remain, I was both looking forward and dreading this benchmark as the fat is going down very gradually. Although I don't have what I would call lumps, my left cheek has a weird definition. The best way to describe is as if my doctor had shoved a mango pit at an angle inside my cheek. I do have to admit that there is gradual softening and both cheeks look less defined. I am grateful to you and others who have formed a support network through this difficult journey. I want to share a quote I came across yesterday: "To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself." Thich Nhat Hanh Cheers, Ruz
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Most of the PS that do FT do very little followup, if any. Not all, but most, truly don't seem interested in how it turns out once they have your fee and the work is done. On to the next patient. So few have any idea how long it lasts or doesn't last. The PS that do revisions are more familiar with how long it lasts because they end up having to deal with it if it goes poorly. When I went for consults to address the lumps, the PS I went to all advised me to wait one year before I did anything in the way of revisions because it would take that long to make sure they were dealing with a final result. And they were right. I know its really difficult (really hard!) to be patient and wait it out, but you have a way to go before you give up hope. Try to find something to keep your mind occupied in the meantime. That will help the stress level. Good luck and take care.
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I now know someone who had fat grafting by Dr. Holcomb and had a terrible experience. So I no longer encourage you to check him out for fat removal. Wishing you the very best in finding ways to heal.
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Oh gosh. What happened? Surely he could remove the fat afterwards though... right?
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Thank you so much for writing and telling your story. It was extremely helpful. I am so very sorry for all that you have been through. I wish you nothing but the best.
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You may want to check out Dr. Holcomb in Sarasota, FL. He does a lot of corrections on individuals who have had problems with FT, especially overfilling the areas such as your cheeks (he actually removes the fat where individuals were overfilled). I have heard many positive things about him; I have not had FT so I cannot provide you with first hand experience.
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Aloha 2018anon!  Thank you for the referral on Dr. Holcomb...will definitely look into it when I am ready to work on getting rid of these nasty chipmunk cheeks that Chahin gave me.  I do hope you NEVER even consider trying FT...its brutal trying to get rid of it. 
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Thank you for the referal to Dr. Holcomb. I am very interested in this procedure and I have seen more positive than negative with this and the negative reports don't show any pictures so it's very personal as I told her that I paid $800 for some silicon in my lips that you can't see any difference whatsoever and much like she describes, I walked in blind and Dr. Swanson in Clearwater, (check his background) talked me into this and he acted like this was normal and I should be glad it wasn't too much. I'm pretty sure I uploaded the pictures...none of my friend's see any difference. I do think that the fat transfer is a gradual process and not instant like fillers. I want to know about how important to also do the rich blood plasma with it.
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The reason you don't see pictures is because for most of us it is a devastating and upsetting life changing event in our lives. I for one am too embarrassed to post my pictures, it looks that bad. Several positive reviews have been written by office staff of doctors who do the procedure. One gal here keeps changing he call name because she was exposed by a patient who went to the doctor she works for. She has photos posted, but never actually had the procedure done. She just uses photos taken on a bad day for "before"...and better days for after, lol! And realself is for some odd reason promoting this procedure by only sending out "updates" that are positive. Please be careful if decide to do this...it is nearly impossible to reverse once it goes bad...and it goes bad alot. I've met a few other women that ended up like me. It's tragic especially because they are so much younger than myself & so much prettier before this happened to them. One of them has permanent lumps on one side of her lips & has had no success getting it removed. I removed the fat under my eyes but am left with permanent dark circles and a large divot under my right eye that has to be filled with restylane every 4-6 months. It's difficult to make my eyes look even & its costly. The last 3 years of my life has been hell. I've spent nearly $30,000 trying to find a permanent fix with little improvement & damage to my vision in the process. My eyes are no longer mine & I miss the old me. I wish you well, but sincerely hope you reconsider doing this to yourself. Its a nightmare that doesn't end when you wake up the next day...or any day. Good luck
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Aloha 2018anon...I got your update about changing your mind about recommending Holcomb. Can you share with us your friend's experience?
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Chellamia, fat transfer is often not a gradual process. I would also not use PRP with it. I once read something about a woman who had a bone growing thru her eye after doing something like that! You do hear of people saying they're getting a "gradual" method but those people may actually like being overfilled gradually! That's what I reckon. Either way, we don't get to see everyone who says their fat transfer "went well" nor the doctors who did it, so we don't know how it looks on all of them nor how it took. On the flip side, I doubt anyone has much in the way of motivation to make up a story about how their fat trasnfer went bad, lumpy, and couldn't be fixed. The fact is, some people having fat transfer also have unconventional taste in plastic surgery and having seen some of the "good" results on here, I am not convinced that this procedure, as it's commonly done, caters to a mainstream taste - a bit like butt implants or silicone injections. Definitely not everyone's cup of tea.
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I am sad and sorry you had to go through this. I am right there with you. I was a very attractive woman-head turner, if you will. My nightmare started when i went to Bradford Patt in Houston for a little restylane before an event. He overfilled to the point where I look ridiculous and had craters. He tried to fix with wydase and it literally took away the filler AND my own fat. YES-they will tell it doesn't happen but it does. So i went to a well known surgeon on the west coast who is considered the GURU of fat by many doctors. He said he could fix my problem with facelift and fat. NOW-3 months in-I look horrible. The fat is disppearing and there are lumps, divots, and the eyes-OMG-I had beautiful eyes that are now assymetrical and so deep set I don't recognize myself. Guess what the doctor recommended??? Therapy and more fat. He had the nerve to tell me I have BDD. How about doc, "you ripped me off for 35K and I look awful????" He's changed his story about 3-4 times and has actually told me things now he claims he told me up front. Like you, not true. I will post his name one of these days. Once I am done with him, I will make sure everyone out there knows who it is. If we continue to support these doctors, they will never stop. Its ruined my face and my life. I am embarrased when I see friends. I won't go back to certain people (hairdressers, etc) because I am so embarrased. Friends have all been kind and not said what they they really feel. Only two have told me the truth and it wasn't pretty. THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER.
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All of us who have been victims of this have been thru many of the same things you are now experiencing and truly understand the devastation.  We have lost our quality of life & our sense of identity.  We have paid dearly both emotionally & financially.  So we really must continue to be vocal about how bad FT can go.  The PS's make it sound so harmless...and are promoting it like its the fountain of youth.  They don't tell you that you are taking a risk that could ruin your life & then they deny that once it happens.  Its your word against theirs.  Unfortunately those who come here to read about FT too often don't listen to our warnings.  They read the good reviews from those who managed not to be damaged (akin to winning the lottery) or the many phony reviews written by the office staff of the doctors themselves or friends.  It appeals to one's natural tendency to accept only the info that you simply want to believe.  And they are told by these PS that we are just nutcases who complain over nothing.  Rather we are just normal women, just like they are, who have been taken in by the greed and incompetence of the PS's who perform this procedure with abandon & little regard for the consequences if it goes wrong.  It's easy money for those who lack the conscience to refuse to continue with this procedure, even after they know how many lives have been ruined.  My current PS, says his practice has increased significantly with fat transfer repair work.  As an eye specialist, he is really concerned that others are still using FT anywhere near the eyes.  The tissue is too delicate and thin...and there is little chance it will not lump and scar.  And attempts to fix it are limited & risky. You can never really get back to where you were.  The other area difficult to fix is near the mouth.  If anyone who is considering FT is reading this...please, please reconsider.  Write us a personal message & talk to us.  Judge for yourself if we are "nutcases" or just unfortunate victims of a bad procedure who only wanted to improve their appearance a bit...just like you.  The risk is too great. 
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