Restoring Volume, Implants or Fat Transfer?

I was wondering what the difference is between implants and fat transfer. From what I understood fat transfer is done using a needle and injecting fat into hollow areas. But how can that possibly create more volume? If one has serious fat atrophy would it be best to use fat transfer injections or implants? What kind of implants are there? Are implants like bone or soft like gel? What would be the best way to rejuvenate a person?

Doctor Answers 2

Fillers, Autologous Fat Transfer, Implants for the face

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Atrophy or deflation of the subcutaneous fat in the face can lead to a gaunt, tired appearance with eccentuated lines around the nose and mouth. There are several ways to fill in the areas of deflation and lines.

1. Fillers - Popular fillers such as Juvederm, Restylane, and Radiesse offer a great short term solution to to facial volume issues. Fillers generally last about 9-12 months. The can be placed in the face without an anesthetic.

2. Autologous Fat injections - The use of your own fat offers a long lasting solution to volume loss. It does require surgery to harvest the fat. The fat that is collected is then injected into volume depleted areas much like the fillers described above. Although, fat can last "forever," it may take several minor touch up procedures if there is some resorption of the injected fat after the initial surgery.

3. Implants - The use of solid implants also offers a long term solution to volume loss. This requires surgery for placement of the implant. Facial implants are commonly placed in the area of the cheekbones and chin. The solid implants will not address the lines around the nose and mouth, but does enhance the volume in the upper cheeks and adds projection to the chin.

An evaluation and discussion with your plastic surgeon is the best way to come up with your optimal treatment plan.

Thanks for your question.


Gregory C. Park, M.D.

San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 178 reviews

Volume Restoration: Implants or Fat Transfer?

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Good question, and no simple answer.  In general, an implant is a solid or semi-solid object that is inserted into a space.  A breast implant is the most-commonly known version of this in plastic surgery, but this also includes chin, cheek and buttock implants.  Fat transfer is exactly that; it takes fat from one part of the body and moves it to another part.  In the strictest sense it, too, is an implant, but it's not normally considered that way.  You can generally inject fat into a much more diffuse pattern than you can place an implant, but you can achieve greater volume enlargement at a single procedure with an implant.  And sometimes a combination makes the most sense.

That's where a consultation with a plastic surgeon is indicated.  After you've done as much research as you can on your own you should see a few plastic surgeons to go over the various options that are specific for you.

I hope that this helps and good luck,

Dr. E

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.