Fat grafting: Just one more way to recycle

Posted on September 20th, 2011 by Gina

We made a joke about fat grafting a while back and were promptly told by many that they didn’t know what we were talking about! Fat grafting, (a.k.a. autologous fat transfer and fat injections), is a cosmetic procedure that involves taking fat from one overly endowed area of your body and injecting it into a spot that could use a little boost.  It is a method of using a patient’s own fat cells as a filler, and can be used in the face, cheeks, lips, hands, buttocks … basically almost anywhere you want to add a little plumpness.

Say you want a fuller face.  A surgeon sucks out a little fat via needle and syringe or cannula from your belly or hips, then injects it into your cheeks or lips, smoothing wrinkles and restoring a youthful plumpness.  Since the cells were yours to begin with, there’s no chance of allergic reaction or rejection.  Sounds like stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, doesn’t it?

Still, fat grafting is the lowest rated procedure at RealSelf.com, primarily because of its unpredictability.  Fat is living tissue and has to be kept alive to properly plump its new location.  Fat grafting involves harvesting, processing and re-injecting, and some of the fat cells are going to die during the process. The question is, just what percentage will become useless.  As one plastic surgeon on RealSelf put it, it is highly dependent on technique.  Another variable is that the fat could be reabsorbed into your body, and the so-called experts can’t seem to agree whether the results are permanent.

Additionally, if you want to kick up a little controversy, get a few plastic surgeons together and ask about fat transfer for breast augmentation. In 2007, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons came out against the procedure for breast enlargement, because there is little or no data that shows it is better or safer than using silicone or saline implants.  Some doctors also argue that if the transferred fat dies, it can leave behind scar tissue or calcifications. It can also hamper cancer screenings, and it remains a hot-button issue..

From people who have had it done, however, especially in their cheeks and hands, fat grafting usually wins high praise.  Some recent studies show that because the fat is rich in mature stem cells, fat grafts to your face and cheeks may improve your complexion.  It is outpatient surgery, requiring a day or two of downtime to allow the harvest sites to heal.    The cost of the procedure varies widely, not only by region and surgeon, but also depending on where you having the injections (lips will be less than butts).

For more information, PlasticSurgery.com is a good resource.

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