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 times
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Hi notsogood, your story really resonates with me. I went in for one minor procedure and a different procedure was performed (with no informed consent) and the results were disastrous. I share your feelings of anger and sadness and I share the loss of self confidence and self esteem. I came across your review as I am looking into fat transfer as an option to camouflage some of the damage caused by the unauthorised dissolving of some old juvederm under my eyes. The hyaluronidase dissolver caused purple-black discolouration of my lower lids, a marked indentation along the orbital bone where the filler was, herniated fat pads, puffiness, loose and crepey skin. I am reconsidering fat transfer as an option after reading your comprehensive and extremely helpful review. I have looked dreadful for more than three months and I really struggle to socialise. Actually, I struggle to leave the house even to go to work. I am scared of surgery but I accept that a lower blepharoplasty is probably all that is going to assist. I have taken to wearing fake glasses just to have the confidence to look people in the face. I am a different person. I too had the patronising rubbish from the doctor that I "looked better" etc. this is just patently absurd and when I said so, she replied then I should have a blepharoplasty. I did not need a blepharoplasty before she ruined my eyes! It's unbelievable to me how unaccountable these doctors are and how little they care when something goes wrong. She just walked away from the mess like it's nothing. After the time and energy and money (!) you have spent, I hope you are looking and feeling much better. How are your eyes? What can be done about your cheeks? I look forward to your reply. Cheers, KP
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Hi Notsogood! You might be tired of answering all questions about fat grafting- but, I had one In February.. It took 2 months before all swelling went down and I was so depressed since I looked so different. Then O went back to me, with my nasolabial folds- and I was so happy with that. Then, one month ago I saw some kind of swelling just above my nasolabial fold- strange. It is not getting worse, but it is kind of strange?? And my ski. Textur, especially on my left side seem a bit odd. And also I can see some small white bumps (not whiteheads). I have tried to ask doc, both in here and at consultasions for second opinion, even dermatologists, but they can not tell me w going on. Do you have any idea w this is? I am kind of worried it will get worse.. Should I expect that? This business is so bad, I been buing creams and trying to fix the surface, but I am so afraid that it is scar tissue comma f to the surface. It is a brutal procedure as well as it is not delivering anything else that depressed people who was promised a younger apperance. I am only 36, but my skin texture looks like 80...! Hope for some not so depressing answers....:/
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Sorry, bad language- it is my crazy spell checking!!
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Una 78, It is not unusual to see changes after several months. You will likely see more over the coming year...and for some of us (like me) long after that. Some of those changes will be for the better (eg. swelling goes down) other changes, not so much. I noticed the lumping shortly after the FT, and then more lumps after the swelling went down...specifically around my eye area. I had surgery to remove the lumps under my right eye at about 1-1/2 yrs after the FT. It did remove the lumps, but unavoidably removed some of my own fat, so I ended up with a dark circle under that eye. Still preferable to the lumps, but I had to use a lot of concealer to hide the darkness. Just recently (it's now about 2 years after the revision surgery) I noticed the dark circle fading as some of the fat slowly came back. I was actually happy that it did cause I could cut down on layers of concealer. The bad news is, under my left eye that wasn't operated on, I developed some small lumps & swelling that wasn't there before. Aaargh!!! And it's 3-1/2 years after the original FT. It's not too bad & if it doesn't get worse I'll just live with it, but I have to say if it gets worse, I'll be really upset. I had no idea I could develop new lumps after this long. A few months ago, I would have told you that wasn't possible. I have heard a few other people talk about new "soft" swelling, but I'm guessing (hoping) it is not the norm. For you at 3-4 months, it's really too soon to know how you will ultimately look. That new swelling by your nasolabial fold could disappear so give it time. Weight fluctuations can make the fat go up and down. Sometimes salty/spicy foods affect swelling too. My revision PS said it is common with FT especially in the first year or two, but apparently sometimes longer. So wait it out for awhile before you look into remedies to remove it. Some have had success with microlipo suction but it is too soon for that. Okay the skin thing... and the little white bumps. I had those and so did another viewer "Good Face Gone Bad" (see the comments under her review). There are more who mentioned white bumps too. Same with the skin texture. Mine looked awful. Yep, I looked 80. The good news is... eventually that gets better. I tried everything (facials, Retin A, scrubs, etc) but eventually it was an Obagi Nu-Derm skin regime that cleared it up for me. Improved the texture of my skin too. Took a long time, costs a bundle for the products, but it worked. I believe GFGB used various peels & facials to get rid of her bumps & improve the texture, you might send her a private message and ask her what she used too. You will just have to keep trying until you find the right product for you. Another gal got results from a laser peel, but I would recommend starting with something that's the least invasive first & work your way up. Doing too much, too soon, is something that many of here have regretted. So patience (& a lot of glasses of wine) are key here. I'm so sorry this has happened to you, believe me there are many of us here that understand how devastating the aftermath of FT can be & know exactly how you feel. OTOH, you are so fortunate that it only took 2 months for the swelling to go down. That puts you light years ahead of the rest of us. I don't have a crystal ball, but I'm guessing you'll get thru this whole thing just fine if it absorbed that fast initially. The worst areas to fix after FT are the eyes & the lips. With other areas, like your folds, you will have more options. I know it's hard, but give it more time. In the meantime, you can start concentrating on the white bumps & skin texture. That you can do yourself or with the help of a good facialist (or both). Sorry for the long post. Hope it helps you a little & answers your questions. I'm sure others will chime in with their suggestions too. Hang in there and keep us posted about your progress.
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Thanks so much for taking your time to share your experience- it means a lot! After reading this, I feel a little bit better. I will now try to look forward and enyoj the summer- and heal and peel when fall comes!
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I will update how things work out!
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My skin texture was horrible post ft. I am 18 months pits and it's just stating to look better. The first year left me anxious, depressed and withdrawn from my friends. Try a few peels ( I did a TCA). Looked good after that. Also- do not let any docs talk you into lasers, ulthera or anything else. They have no idea what they're doing. Try to wait until at least a year passes. Do not inject anything either. The Perricone 3 day diet helped my skin immensely when I had special events to attend. Also- I use TNS essential serum and prescription retin A. Eat tons of greens and stay away from sugar. Fat is an irritant once they inject it. Now you have to wait until the inflammation calms down The skin will improve. But it takes a while. If you saw some of my pics prior to a year, I didn't want to go out. It looked like layers of fat stuffed into a sausage. These docs should be shot. One year of my life was taken because I was so traumatized Just know we're here Keep the faith!
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I did not see this until now Red roxie- Thanks for your support and advice- it means so much that you take your time to comment!
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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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