How Long Does Fat Last After Harvesting?

If I have Liposuction, and some of the fat is stored for use in other areas (ie. cheeks, lips, or under the eyes), will it still be safe or good for injection 3 months after it was stored? I would like to consider having liposuction on my inner thighs, and have some of it placed in my cheeks, then wait another 3-4 months to have it touched up with the original fat from the first procedure.

Doctor Answers 16

Longevity of fat harvested for Fat Grafting

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Fat Grafting requires specialized training and specialized surgical instruments, as well as patience and attention to detail on the part of the surgeon. Fat that has been collected through tradtional liposuction will not be viable for lasting fat grafts. A relatively new technique, structural fat grafting, in which small amounts (less than 0.1 cc at a time) of fat are carefully microinjected in a series of discrete layers to gradually 'build' new soft tissue structure.
As there is space between each microinjection, new blood vessels are able to grow into the grafted fat, allowing it to persist. If this process of blood vessel ingrowth (neovascularization) does not occur, then the injected tissue cannot truly be considered a 'graft' and is instead just another 'soft tissue filler' of limited duration. Fat harvested for fat grafting must be used immediately. Fat that is frozen or stored will not be viable even if it is harvested properly.

Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 123 reviews

Frozen fat is dead fat

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Dear CLN,
Fat that is frozen is essentially dead fat. It can be injected at a later date, but its viability will be short lived. In other words, you may appreciate a volume increase for a short period, but it will quickly dissipate.

Storing fat is not effective.

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Hi! Even fresh fat atrophies to some extent. (This is highly variable and depends on technique). Stored fat is not viable and I don't do it.

In fact, I don't know any experienced plastic surgeons in New York who store fat. This seems to be done primarily by dermatologists. And it is safe enough. I just don't think it works.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon

How does injected fat last?

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The question is how viable was it when it was first harvested. The number drops steadily from there over time.

In our published studies, we found 20-25% viability of fat cells immediately after harvest. Other studies have shown a slow decrease in live cells over time.

The effects of fat injection are twofold: temporary volume replacement, and eventual permanent results.

Your temporary results may be the same with old fat or new fat, however the long term results will not be since fewer of the cells are alive, and fewer will eventually survive.

Brent Moelleken, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 188 reviews

Best to use harvested fat right away

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We like to use the fat right away after harvesting, as we depend on the viability of the fat cells for the result. Although widely used, I do not store fat any longer because I prefer optimal fat survival. It is relatively easy to obtain more fat before the next treatment.

Other surgeons may store fat for up to 1 year, recognizing that survival will likely decrease. There are always pros and cons.

Frank P. Fechner, MD
Worcester Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

Fat Transfer and Storage

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Fat that is harvested for transfer should be used right away. Stored fat has unpredictable survival and there is always a concern about bacterial contamination or "sterility" of a biological product stored under conditions which have poorly defined industry standards -- especially in a private clinic setting.

Store fat in your body

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In my opinion, the best place to store fat is in your body. I would recommend doing the initial procedure, and if you need an additional injection of fat, I would re-harvest fat from you at that time. The survival would be far superior to fat stored in a freezer and it would eliminate the possibility of mixing up your fat with someone else's that may have been stored in a freezer.

Stored fat not long-lasting as fresh fat

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The fat that is stored is usually not as long-lasting as fresh fat. Unless you are extremely thin, there is always some fat available in other parts of the body for fresh fat transfer. This is easily done with local anesthesia and is preferrable to frozen fat.

Toby Mayer, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

Low risk to store harvested fat

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Fat injection itself is a relatively unpredictable process, so I do not think you are losing anything to store the fat if you know you will want to have another session. You have to figure in less than 100% take anyway, although the storing of fat certainly doesn't improve its quality.

However, be sure your surgeon or facility has the ability to store properly. There is a small risk of contamination or mislabeling that can occur if storage procedures are not strict.

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

Preserving, storing, or saving fat for later injection.

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As easy as it is to put fat on (gain weight), it is just as difficult to preserve and store. Fat cells are very delicate and easily die. That is why we generally over correct and over inject because we anticipate that some of the fat will not survive (this is approximately 50% on average).

There are some physicians who feel that saving the fat is worthwhile and can provide some long term survival. There are many different formulas and recipes and techniques for this.

I have had research experience in the laboratory where fat cells were very difficult to grow and therefore very difficult to study. They are on of the least hardy cells to manage. Given this experience I am very skeptical about preserving fat in a clinical or office setting.

Of course this is my opinion and I realize that other doctors may differ in their recommendations.

I hope this helps!

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.