I'm confused. Is fat grafting permanent or not?

i went to three drs. each told me a different story:, one that he rare.y needs touch ups in hispractice and that fat grafting is permanent. another dr said that it can last between a few months and 3 years. One wants to harvest it from my thighs, the other from my belly.... what s the story?

Doctor Answers 5

Fat Grafting Can Be Permanent - Important Not to Over-correct

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Fat grafting CAN be permanent. It is important that a plastic surgeon not over-correct.

Achieving survival of grafted fat requires appropriate instrumentation, meticulous surgical technique, and a willingness on the part of the surgeon to put a significant amount of time and effort into mastering the procedure. The fat must be harvested in a manner which ensures fat viability, and it must be grafted in a manner that permits revascularization (i.e. blood supply) of the grafted tissue.
Areas that already have some soft tissue fullness, such as the cheeks, are relatively easy to expand with grafted fat, as a robust ‘scaffolding’ exists to hold the grafted fat. Thinner areas are more challenging: the temples, the lower lid / cheek junction, the nasal dorsum; these areas frequently require more than one fat grafting procedure to achieve the desired degree of volume enhancement. One can only add but so much fat in a single treatment when the ‘scaffolding’ is limited.
There really are no ‘shortcuts’ that a surgeon can take when performing fat grafting surgery. Every step in the process must be performed with great attention to detail. Make sure that the surgeon you choose provides some description of their fat grafting technique, provides some indication of their level of experience with fat grafting, and demonstrates to you a high level of success in terms of fat survival and natural-appearing results as represented by ‘before and after’ photography.

Look at photographic examples of the doctor’s work and decide if the aesthetic ideal is consistent with your own.A link to my fat grafting gallery is below.

Make sure that the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ images have the same perspective, the same lighting, and the same amount of make-up applied. ‘Before’ photos taken in the early morning (and without any makeup applied) placed next to ‘after’ photos taken later in the day and in full makeup are meaningless for the evaluation of a surgical result.

 fat grafting is a procedure in which small amounts (less than 0.1 cc at a time) of fat are carefully introduced in a series of discrete layers to gradually 'build' new soft tissue structure. As there is space between each micrograft, new blood vessels are able to grow into the grafted fat, allowing it to persist indefinitely. If this process of blood vessel ingrowth (neovascularization) does not occur, then the transferred fat cannot truly be considered a 'graft' and is instead just another temporary 'soft tissue filler' that is broken down and reabsorbed over several weeks.  Fat grafting requires specialized training and specialized surgical instruments, as well as patience and meticulous attention to detail on the part of the surgeon. When performed properly, permanent and natural-appearing aesthetic enhancements can be achieved. 
However, some fat will be reabsorbed. Therefore, I do let my patients know that it is possible that they may want a "touch up" fat grafting procedure at some point in the future. The price for possible follow up treatments are carefully outlined prior to the initial surgical procedure.
Some plastic surgeons elect to over-fill faces with fat, knowing that some fat will be reabsorbed. The problem is we can't predict exactly how much fat will be reabsorbed and sometimes patients can have a    very unnatural looking result This result could be a prolonged healing period where a patient feels uncomfortable being seen in public for months. Worse, this result can be permanent.  It is very important to view many many before and after photos of fat grafting. View photos of patients weeks after surgery, and patients years after surgery. 

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

Fat transferred fat is permanent

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Fat transfer to the face, breast or buttock is permanent however a certain percentage of the fat cells will die within the first few months after surgery. This can be as high as 50%, therefore, some patients will desire a second procedure to add more fat. If you mix the fat with growth factors derived from the patient's own serum (platelet enriched plasma) you can increase the amount of fat which survives.

Best wishes,


William Bruno, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 412 reviews

Fat grafting results based on 35 year experience.

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1. It lasts forever after the initial absorption of about 50%
2. What you see at 3 months is what you get
3. In the wrong hands it produces irregularities and often requires touch ups especially in the face.
4. I have primarily used the abdomen where most people have "extra" fat
5. If you gain 20lbs. the transferred fat can increase in size!

Toby Mayer, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Fat grafting

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In general, we believe that the fat that is injected will take a few weeks to a couple of months to stablize. In the first couple of months after fat grafting, we believe that 40-60% [in most patients] of the fat will remain viable, as the rest atrophies away.
Once this fat stabilizes, it is in fact permenant. However, in the facial region, aging will continue to occur and facial fat atrophy will continue.
One way to explain this is the following:  in a hypothetical situation, if you had fat grafting done to only the right side of your face, but not to the left side, your right side will always have more volume than the left side, but will continue to age and have fat atrophy.

As far as thigh vs belly fat as the donor site, there has been no definitive study suggesting one is better than the other. What I generally ask my patients is the following:  which body region do you have the toughest time losing fat from, and that is the region that I'll harvest fat from. In ladies its often inner knees and outer thighs, in males its generally around the belly.

Hope this helps clear things up a bit.

A.J. Amadi, MD
Seattle Oculoplastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Fat Graphting

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Fat grafting is very unpredictable.  It could stay for years or can be re-absorbed in months.  There are places on the body and face that I have found that fat does like to stay longer.  Discuss the "typical" time your surgeon estimates the fat will stay in that specific area you are transferring the fat to.  Where you would like the fat removed is up to you.  There is no time guarantee on fat transfer.      

Jan Zemplenyi, MD
Bellevue Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 17 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.