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Get the Scoop on Today’s Fat Transfer Treatments and Procedures

May 31, 2017 02:00PM ● By Caley Breese
By Caley Breese

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2016, minimally invasive cosmetic fat injections increased 13% from the year prior.

Summer is here! And we all know what that means—beach season! And with beach season comes the anticipated swimsuit season. While we all want to look great sunbathing no matter what, it can be frustrating to find an extra amount of fat in an unwanted area and perhaps not enough volume in another. So we reached out to local experts to get the scoop on fat transfer treatments and procedures and what they entail.

What are fat transfers?

A fat transfer is a long-lasting surgical procedure conducted by a plastic surgeon that transfers fat from an area on the body that has an excessive amount to an area where volume seems to be lacking.

“The fat survives by picking up a new blood supply via the surrounding tissues, much like a skin graft survives,” explains Dr. Haven Barlow of Chesapeake Plastic Surgery. “Not all the fat will survive, but anywhere from 80 to 90 percent is fairly reliable.”

The fat that will eventually be transferred is generally taken from the inner thigh or abdomen area by liposuction. The preparation for the transferring process is done by centrifuging, filtering, or rinsing. Once that is complete, the purified liquid fatty tissue is ready

Common Transfer Areas

According to Barlow, the most common areas for fat transfers that medical professionals typically see are most areas of the face, including cheeks, jawline, and underneath the eyes.

“More interesting places [where it is used are] for brows and temporal foreheads,” he describes.

While some men and women receive fat transfers simply for aesthetics such as lips, cheeks, breast enhancements, and even hand rejuvenation, there are instances where fat transfers are used for more medical purposes. One example is breast reconstruction, which occurs when a woman receives a lumpectomy or a mastectomy due to breast cancer. However, these two surgeries can often require multiple steps.

Fat Versus Fillers

If you’re looking for some volume replacement that doesn’t require surgery, fillers may be the option for you. Of course, it’s always important to consult with your doctor first. Here are some of the differences between fat transfers and fillers so you have an idea of what sort of technique you’re interested in so you can discuss with your doctor.

For starters, fillers are a minimally-invasive technique and are used to add volume and fill in wrinkles and facial creases. It can also help with early signs of aging. There are different types of fillers that help achieve volume depending on what you’re looking for, some of which are hyaluronic acid fillers, synthetic fillers, and collagen fillers. Fillers require just a quick trip to the doctor for the procedure and less recovery time, as well. On the other hand, fillers are a more temporary fix for adding volume to desired areas. They require repeated visits if you want to keep up with the results.

Fat transfers, like fillers, are minimally-invasive techniques even though they do require a local anesthetic. Fat transfers are a more permanent treatment when wanting to build volume in certain areas of your body. The process for receiving a fat transfer takes much longer, as do the recovery times.

“Fillers are very popular as a volume replacement, but fat grafting is a surgical procedure and may not be appropriate for many people. Fat grafting is used in almost every facelift and in many blepharoplasty, or lower eyelid, procedures,” says Barlow.

New and Emerging Techniques

Some of the newest and emerging techniques involve fat transfers that include nano-grafting and micro-grafting. These techniques, according to Barlow, take advantage of the stem cell qualities for survival and rejuvenation.

“Today’s techniques go more towards the nano-fat and micro-fat grafting. We are able to use the fat grafting in a much more refined use. Not only in volume replenishment, but also to help treat fine lines and other contour deformities.”

Nano-grafting or micro-grafting often involves taking smaller amounts of fat from certain areas of the body in order to give the transfer a smoother distribution.

“The success rate for micro-fat grafting is much better than the traditional form,” explains Barlow.

The trend of fat grafting has become increasingly popular, specifically for breast augmentation, hand rejuvenation, and gluteal augmentation, also known as the “Brazilian lift.”

“The refinement and the increased use of fat grafting has perhaps been the biggest enhancing procedure in cosmetic surgery,” Barlow describes. “We’ve come to appreciate the volume changes that occur with aging and damaged skin/aging facial features.”

Indeed recent developments in fat transfer procedures including the enhancement of minimally invasive techniques, have made this a very exciting time for those looking for an answer to perhaps not just one issue they have with their bodies, but two!

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