Autologous fat transfer, that is, transferring one’s own body fat from one body location to another could be the way for face rejuvenation, breast or buttock enhancement or say, reconstructive procedure on chronic leg wounds. Though in cosmetic surgery, the concept of fat transfer is fairly old, there were some initial doubts about its use. For example, some experts felt that fat transfer in breasts might cause early diagnosis of cancerous tissues difficult by mammogram though with the introduction of latest mammogram equipment and techniques such difficulties are now ruled out.
Fat injection in the facial area, however raised less debate with improved and more gentle techniques of fat harvesting and subsequent processing of the fat into better quality. These ensured that the injected fat remained healthy and survived for a long period with little fat loss.
Among all body parts, face is the most visible and among the early indicators of aging or weight loss. Under aging or weight loss, the face develops wrinkles and creases as well as loses volume. The areas below the eyes and around the cheeks appear sunken or hollow and the chin appears narrow and pointed.
Surgical face lift tightens the skin and underlying tissues but cannot add volume. Volume may be added by treating the face with synthetic dermal fillers like JUVÉDERM and by cheek or chin augmentation with implants. But these procedures have their own limitations like loss of fillers within a short time, possible complications from the implants.
Autologous fat transfer procedure enjoys certain advantages like:
- One’s own fat does not attract body’s immune response unlike any foreign substance.
- The latest fat harvesting, processing and injecting techniques ensure its long survival time of many years.
- One’s own fat as volume filler is soft and provides very natural appearance.
- Fat is always available particularly for face rejuvenation which requires comparatively little amount of fat to cover all the locations.
- It can be easily combined with liposuction or face lift procedures.
Fat transfer procedure – Fat transfer has to go through three steps :
Fat harvesting– Fat is usually obtained through liposuction from abdomen, waists or thighs and the important thing is to do it with very little damage to the harvested fat as well as the adjacent fat tissues left behind in the body. Many experienced surgeons use special liposuction techniques like Body Jet , AquaLipo.
Body Jet, also called Water lipo is one of the Water Assisted Liposuction (WAL) procedures and uses a gentle fluid spray to remove the desired fat mass without causing trauma or damage to the fat, blood vessels and nerves. This technique also causes less swelling and pain compared to conventional tumescent fluid use in liposuction. The technique is said to eliminate the need for general anesthesia and its related risks completely.
AquaLipo, another branded procedure, is similar to Body Jet and uses water spray to remove the fat tissues.
Fat processing- Processing of harvested fat improves the fat quality including its stem cell content. It is known that adult stem cells, also called adipose(fat) cells which are present in the fat tissues, have the ability to produce new cells of the same tissues (these were later found to do so for other tissues as well).
Many surgeons use centrifuge machines to process the harvested fat resulting in different fat layers including a layer that is stem cell enriched.
According to the surgeons, stem cell enriched fat tissues after being injected in the face provide fullness and go on improving and repairing the skin over a long time. The skin is less wrinkled and its tone improves considerably.
Fat injection- Some of the surgeons believe that injecting the fat in tiny volumes slowly bring in good results. There is also a risk of fat re-absorption in the body, which may sometimes be quite significant. The surgeon has to use his expertise in deciding on the fat amount to be injected depending on the particular patient’s body characteristics.
Cost and Down time- The cost of fat transfer in face rejuvenation may vary in the range of $5,000 to $ 10,000. The down time may be for several days due to some amount of possible bruising, swelling and pain despite using special liposuction and latest fat injecting techniques.