Is It True That There is a Limit on How Much Fat Can Be Extracted During Fat Grafting?

I recently had fat grafting in my chin and cheeks. The nurse has explained that due to the limitation on how much fat can be extracted at once, there is not enough leftover frozen fat for my secondary fat injection. Is this extraction limitation true? Thanks a lot!

Doctor Answers 13

Limit to fat harvest

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As stated by others, the only limit to the amount that can be harvested is your donor supply and he potential for a contour deformity at the donor site if too much is removed.

The limit to fat grafting volume lies in how much extra fat you have.

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Fat grafting is limited by the amount of fat that you have in donor sites. Also, frozen fat does not typically survive nearly as well as freshly harvested fat.  If your donor sites are over harvested then you could end up with sunken in areas so, yes, there is a limit to how much fat can be harvested and subsequently grafted.

Limits on how much fat can be harvested for facial fat grafting

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The main limitation when it comes to harvesting fat is how much fat the donor site has to give. I use hand generated vacuum (ie, very minimal amount of negative pressure) to minimize the potential trauma to the fat cells. Some surgeons to use powered liposuction to perform concurrent body sculpting. In these situations there is a certain amount of fat that can be removed safely.

In some situations the main limitation is that the patient is fairly thin and doesn't have all that much fat to give.

Fat Grafting Limitations

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There are several limitations in fat grafting. First is the recipient site. There are some areas in which a greater percentage of the fat placed will survive. Most areas, however, require more than one session to achieve optimal fill. The second limitation is the donor site. If you have significant fat available, there is no problem. Some people, however, have very little fat anywhere and require very careful planning to harvest enough fat to fill the area that needs filling. The chin especially, and, to some extent, the cheeks, almost always requires a second procedure. I always try to harvest just enough fat to complete each procedure with no fat left over. If I do have any left, I try to find another area that could use some fill. I would never think of freezing the fat for later injection since this would significantly reduce the viable fat cells.

Robert T. Buchanan, MD
Highlands Plastic Surgeon

Limits of amount of fat removed for fat grafting

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When removing fat in preparation for fat grafting to another body area, the plastic surgeon should take great care  to remove fat from the donor site so that there will not be problems, such as dimpling, at the donor site. Generally, fat being removed for fat grafting is removed under much less pressure than traditional liposuction in order to help insure the survival of the fat. The limiting factors for how much fat can be removed include things like how much fat is present in the donor site, how many donor sites are available, if other procedures are being performed at the same time, etc. At Gayoso Plastic Surgery, I do not freeze fat for future use. During a fat grafting session, all of the fat that I plan to graft is removed at the surgical setting, processed in order to allow the excess fluid/serum to drain off and then placed into smaller syringes for immediate grafting.

Fat reinjection

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I have had situations with very thin patients where I have had to move to liposuction from the abdomen, thighs (inner and outer), and buttocks before achieving adequate volumes.  I don't think you are limited if prepared to move into all these areas.

I think it is more likely that the volume was less than anticipated after processing the fat cells.  This can occur despite exceptional care.  I would get a second opinion to see where you stand today. 

Thanks for the great question!

Is It True That There is a Limit on How Much Fat Can Be Extracted During Fat Grafting?

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  The limitations of fat removal is 5 liters at any one time.  Fat transfer is unreliable, IMHO to begin with,.  Freezing fat raises the question of how the freezing effects the intact fat cells making the fat even less reliable.  You'd do better using a reliable, off the shelf filler like Perlane or Radiesse, for facial shaping and contouring.  Be sure the MD, you choose, understands and follows the proper aesthetics of facial beauty for the creation of a naturally, youthful, more attractive face.

Limit on fat harvested for fat transfer

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The only real limit on how much fat can be harvested is how much is available.  Very thin people can have limited spaces available for harvesting.

This is not really the question for most of us.  The better question is"can extra fat be frozen to be injected later?"  No.  There is no good science that suggest it is a good idea.  It is uncleart that any of the frozen fat will remain as living cells.  We have to be concerned, also, about the sterility of the frozen fat after such a long time out of the body.

I tell my patients the best place to store fat is on your own body.  Hope this helps.

Michael S. Hopkins, MD (retired)
Albuquerque Plastic Surgeon

Limitations exist in both the areas of harvesting and placing.

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Harvesting can be limited by lack of available "good" donor sites.  If you are thin with a low bmi there are few areas that will give a good graft.  If you try to harvest unsuitable areas, the grafts become very beat up and may have blood included so they will have a very poor result.

At the other end, if you overfill the areas, the graft take is very poor and the patients look like a ballon.

Storing fat is questionable at several levels.

  • Very poor take because the fat dies
  • Few plastic surgeons have the abiltity to guarantee identification and storage techniques equivelent to what is required in the usual tissue storage facilities such as blood banks.  You do not want to be given someone elses fat no more than you want someone elses blood.

Dr. Mayl\

Fort Lauderdale

Nathan Mayl, MD (retired)
Fort Lauderdale Plastic Surgeon

Facial Rejuvenation with micro fat grafting in Los Angeles

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facial fat grafting has revolutionized facial plastic surgery by giving patients a more natural look without needing to give them the "pulled or stretched look". For facial fat grafting to work well the fat cells have to be very fresh and treated delicately and carefully. Freezing fat kills the cells, and therefore, you can not freeze fat cells for later use.

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.