What is Fat Harvesting and How is It Done?

Some doctors on this website have said that the fat obtained by tumescent liposuction is not re-usable. So then how do they get the fat out? Is fat harvesting a way of extracting fat?, or does it refer to how the fat's treated once it's obtained via lipo? What are ALL the ways to extract/treat/harvest/prepare fat? And what is the best method in order for the fat to stay there permanently? I don't want to drop 5-10 grand on a Brazilian butt lift, only for it to last 6 months.

Doctor Answers 6

How does fat transfer work?

Fat transfer is the process by which liposuction is used to harvest fat cells from unwanted areas and then these fat cells are reinjected into another area, ie the buttocks. This is typically quite successful and many reports show about 80% of the transferred fat lives in it's new location. At my Austin, Texas area plastic surgery practice I don't use laser or ultrasound during the liposuction harvest. I do use wetting solution to limit bleeding. The fat is harvested in a filter and gently transferred to syringes after mixing with a mild antibiotic. I do not wash or otherwise disturb the fat cells. I then inject the fat in small doses seperated at multiple levels and angles to help improve survival. Hope that helps, Dr K

Austin Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 216 reviews

Fat harvesting and Transfer can be done many ways

The way I like to harvest fat for fat transfer is using special cannulas designed for retrieving the fat.  I like to clean the fat with sterile saline and cetnrifuge the fat so it separates from the liquid.  This provides, clean and pure fat.  I use the top 2/3rd 's of the fat so that i get the best fat and not the lower portion that may not be intact.  I transfer the fat using specialized fat transfer cannulas.  These are small so that the fat can be placed into the muscle and acquire a blookd supply for best fat graft survival.

Good Luck

Dr Sikorski

Lenore Sikorski, MD
Orange County Dermatologist
4.3 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

There are a lot of different opinions on fat injection...

Fat harvested for reinjection can be done in different ways.  Some people inject only freshly harvested fat while others freeze the fat for up to a year.  Regardless of who is doing it, the procedure is done with a small needle attached to a syringe so as to not traumatize the fat.  Large canulas or laser should not be used.  Then the fat is gently processed in some way and then either injected or stored.  While there is no guarantee of permanence, the fat can have a high take rate if performed properly, and this result can be enhanced by subsequent injections if needed. 

Andrew Miller, MD
Edison Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 205 reviews

Getting the fat: Brazilian Butt Lift

You are asking the million dollar question. I have studied this extensively and there are numerous techniques described to harvest the fat. There is tremendous controversy on the methods used not only to obtain the fat but how to process the fat as well. This vaires from size of cannulae, amount of vaccuum suction, single holed versus multiple holed canntue, fitlering, washing, centrifuging, etc. Ther is not one best method at this time.  

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

Fat harvest for fat injections

Fat can be harvested by extracting it from a "trap" that is hooked up to the tubing connected to the cannula. The fat can be removed from this sterile trap and used. The liposuction technique used to extract the fat from the body, before it goes in the trap, must not be a destructive energy. Ultrasonic and smart lipo (laser-assisted) liposuction should not be done, but tumescent liposuction can be used, and there is discussion that the water jet liposuction recently available can also provide alive fat cells.  It is very common to harvest fat by syringe technique, immediately prior to the liposuction, but this could be tedious if large volumes of fat were needed.

Ronald Shelton, MD
Manhattan Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

Fat Harvesting via Liposuction to Transfer for Facial Cosmetic Surgery

Hi Neurotica in GA,

Fat transfer is a good option to rejuvenate the face without traditional facial plastic surgery. Fat is taken from the abdomen or similar areas with liposuction, and injected into wrinkled areas such as the cheeks, lower eyelid area, jaw line, or temples. Fat to be used for injection is harvested via liposuction, but a little differently as compared to traditional liposuction for body contouring. The surgeon harvests, processes, and injects fat with methods that ensures that most of the fat is preserved and with minimal damage to the tissue. Fresh is always better than frozen.

Fat grafts are both art and science, as with all of plastic surgery. Fat transfer has a certain level of unpredictability as always less than 100% of the fat survives long-term, so touch-ups may be required for some patients. Plastic surgeons typically may perform cosmetic touch-up at one year as needed. Unfortunately, there is not a single best method to guarantee 100% of anything.

Only after a a comprehensive evaluation can a plastic surgeon help determine appropriate options for you. Your plastic surgeon can explain his/her specific method of fat transfer. Best of luck.

Dr. Chaboki

Houtan Chaboki, MD
Washington DC Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 85 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.