Differences Between Fat Grafting, Liposuction and Body Contouring?

I was encouraged to have fat grafted onto my breasts to prevent rippling. It was taken from my skinny little legs but I was left with rippling, scars, depressions and cavities in that area. I have read lots of the cons to liposuction, all expressing the same dilemma. I haven't read the same with fat grafting testimonies, except for the fat being reabsorbed and not lasting long. So what are the differences? Can body contouring smooth out the rippling and cavities left on my legs? Aren't they all the same procedure more or less?

Doctor Answers 7

Post Liposuction Depressions/Rippling

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You have a difficult problem. Once you develop rippling and depressions in the legs (I assume actually your thighs), the treatment is difficult and can give you some improvement, but it is likely you will still have some residual problems but hopefully better than where you are now. The alternatives may depend on how much sagging and rippling of your thighs that you have. If it is significant, then some form of thigh lift may help but these have other problems associated with them. Very fine liposculpture with fine cannulae or even laser assisted liposculpture with or without fat grafting to the depressions may also help. You need to see an experienced, board certified plastic surgeon who can assess your problems and give you an honest appraisal of what can and cannot be done and what results to expect. Be sure to discuss the pros and cons of any solutions recommended ans ask about those potential risks and complications.

Philadelphia Plastic Surgeon

Fat Grafting vs. Liposuction vs. Body Contouring

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Thank you for asking this question. It is true that many terms have been adopted by surgeons in an attempt to distinguish themselves from others. So here are the facts.

Fat grafting involves removal of fat from one area via liposuction technique, washing the aspirated fat, filtering it and reinjecting the fat into other areas. With micro fat grafting (using cannulas a small as 1.2-1.4mm) there is a much better take rate or less absorption of the fat. It's good for the face but would take a significant amount of time to get enough fat to be performed elsewhere. Often surgeons use cannulas for the liposuction that are too big, leaving contour irregularity and a product that is too big to inject and have survive.

Liposuction, done traditionally, involves the infiltration of a tumescent solution followed by removal of the fat in a criss-cross fashion. The smaller the cannulas used the better the result.

Body contouring is simply the over all category for corrections to the body such as with liposuction, tummy tuck, fat grafting, arm lift etc.

Fat grafting for contour problems

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 Fat grafting can sometimes improve rippling.  It really varies how much fat will "take" in the areas treated.  Yes, there will be some resorption of the fat.

Fat grafting for rippling

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Fat grafting is great for treating rippling, either from previous surgeries or previous liposuction.  The fat may dissolve over time, but about 30% usually remains.  You may need several sessions of fat grafting several months apart to get the results that you desire. 

Fat grafting, liposuction and body contouring

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All procedures to reshape the body fall into the category of body contouring, so this includes liposuction, fat transfer, and tummy tucks. Another term you may see is "liposculpture" which basically means the same thing. Fat transfer is a nice way to disguise rippling caused by breast implants where there is little tissue to cover the implants. The fat should hold up very well and may even be permanent. In your case it sounds like there are problems with the 'donor" site which paradoxically may require fat to be transferred back there, assuming there is some other area to take it from. These can be challenging cases so you would do well to consult a plastic surgeon with a lot of experience doing body contouring.


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None of these terms are very specifi but are more or less categories to describe things. Fat grafting is te act of take fat from one part of the body and grafting or transplanting it to another. There are different techniques, outcomes data, and philosphies regarding this process. There is no one standard way of performing it. The goal is to get live fat cells to 'take" or survive in there new environment. Liposuction is merely a tol to remove tisse, mainly fat, although tere is some collateral damage, using a cannula and some sort of negative pressure or vacuum. There are various techniques that can be used as well as ancillary tools like laser or ultrasonic or water jet energy. The purpose is to simply remove fat. The ability to do so in an appropriate and exact manner is highly operator-dependant. Finally,body-contouring is simply a generic category of cosmetic surgeries that refer to changing the shape of the body whether it be through lifts, tucks, liposuction, injections, grafting, or external means. In the end, surgery is about being very specific with the anatomy and tecniques.

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon

Fat grafting versus liposuction versus body contouring

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Liposuction = removal of fat.

Fat grafting = adding of fat.

Body contouring usually means any method utilized to change one's shape and may involve the above as well as dermolipectomy (skin/fat excision), flap rotation, or musculofascial plication

The irregularities left by liposuction can be difficult to treat. Occasionally they will resolve with time and massage. Occasionally, they may require a combination of more liposuction with fat grafting. Occasionally they will be permanent

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.