Fat transfer (or fat grafting) is a dynamic procedure which has gained immense popularity for augmenting various parts of the body. The technique involves aspirating fat through special small diameter cannulae. The fat is then treated to remove oil and excess water. This leaves concentrated fat cells which are gently re-injected to fill out the desired area. Common areas include transfer of fat to the face, breasts, buttocks and legs.
The whole concept is based on ‘structural fat grafting’. Fat cells injected by this special method lie in different tissue planes and are able to get an individual blood supply. The end result is that the fat injected persists long term. It is estimated that about 70% of the fat injected survives long term and we overcompensate at the initial surgery, anticipating the loss. However, top up procedures may be necessary. The additional benefit of fat transfer is the therapeutic effect of stem cells which are present in fat cells. This has an emerging role in tissue regeneration and wound healing.
What does the surgery involve?
The procedure is normally carried out under general anaesthetic and takes about 2 hours to perform. Fat is aspirated using a fine metal liposuction cannula. The tiny incisions are closed with a single stitch and covered by a small waterproof dressing. Fat is commonly harvested from the abdomen or thighs, depending on your preference and the availability of fat.
The fat is then injected into the buttocks or calf depending on the area you wish augmented. This process is time consuming and relies on delicate fat handling and careful reinjection.
You will feel quite bruised and swollen after the operation but this will settle over 1-2 weeks. Most patients will be able to go home the same day or the following day.
What are the risks and side effects of surgery?
Complications are infrequent and usually minor. However, no surgery is without risk and it is important that you are given a clear picture. There will be some discomfort for the first day. Occasionally bruising may occur, but this should resolve rapidly.
Scar – scars are very small and hidden in a skin crease. They should be barely perceptible. However some people heal with thick scars and this can make them more noticeable. There are no scars on the breast, as a needle ois used to inject the fat.
Bruising and swelling – this is very common and bruising may take a couple of weeks to settle.
Infection – this is rare but may require a course of antibitoics.
Fat necrosis – if some of the fat does not gain a blood supply it will die and gradually be reabsorbed. This can sometimes leave a lump that cannot be seen but can be felt. Massaging should resolve this but occasional a procedure to remove the lump may be required.
Fat loss – of the fat that is injected, 40-70% should ‘take’ and become permanent. The remaining fat will simply melt away (reabsorb) over the next few weeks. Should you wish further fat, then the procedure can be repeated after 12 weeks or more.
Fat cysts – can sometimes occur after fat transfer. Most cysts can be aspirated with a needle if they are problematic.
Further fat transfer procedures – these are sometimes needed to give the desired result. Only a certain amount of fat can be injected at one operation. If you desire more volume then a second procedure gives the flexibility to add this.
All the risks will be discussed in detail at your consultation. However, if you have further questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me. Decisions about cosmetic surgery should never be rushed.
What happens after the operation?
At the end of the procedure, a light waterproof dressing may be placed over the stab incision where the fat was harvested. This can either be on your abdomen or thigh.
As long as you are feeling well after the operation, you will be able to go home the same day. You will not be able to drive yourself home from hospital, so it is often a good idea that a friend or family member is able to drive you.
Before you leave the hospital, a 1week follow up appointment will be booked with the nurse to check everything is settling well. I will normally see you in clinic in 6-12 weeks.
What is the estimated time for recovery, absence from work and return to usual activities?
Recovery times vary from one person to another. Depending on the amount of fat transferred, you can return to work after 1 to 2 weeks. If you have any concerns during this period, do contact the hospital team for advice.
How much does the surgery cost?
Pre and Post-Operation Instructions (PDF)
I hope you find this information useful. If you have any questions or require a little more information then please do not hesitate to contact me.