Fat Transfer

Overview

The effects of the ageing process on the face causes the skin to become loose which gives rise to jowls and folds in the neck as well as a loss of soft tissue volume particularly in the cheek area due to drooping of the cheek fat. In contrast to the fullness of youth the face later in life can look gaunt with a sunken appearance in the region of the cheek bones and mid face. Fat transfer is an operation to take fat from one part of the body (e.g. the abdomen or buttocks) and transfer it to another part of the body, usually the face, to try and reverse some of these changes. It can also be useful in correcting the facial contour abnormalities seen following traumatic scars and be used to cosmetically enhance the lips. The operation can be performed under local or general anaesthetic depending on the extent of the treatment, takes about 1 hour to perform and usually requires 1 night in hospital.

During the procedure, the donor area for harvesting fat is prepared in a similar fashion to performing liposuction. The fat is harvested using a special suction cannula so it is not damaged. it is then centrifuged to allow separation of the intact healthy fat cells from those that have damaged. The live fat cells are then injected in the treatment areas using a very fine cannula to place tiny amounts of fat in tunnels which are carefully built up to form layers which restore volume and shape. Between 50% and 60% of the transferred fat survves. This means a certain amount of overcorrection is required which also contributes to some of the swelling following surgery. Fat transfer is often performed in conjunction with other surgical procedures such as a facelift.

Frequently asked questions

Am I suitable for a fat transfer?

What are the benefits of a fat transfer?

Where are the scars?

Is the procedure painful?

How long does it take to recover from the surgery?

When will I notice the results and how long will they last?

Will I be told the risks and complications?

What follow-up appointments will there be?

Am I suitable for a fat transfer?

Not everyone is suitable for fat transfer. Suitability is a matter for you and Mr Johnson to discuss in clinic, following a thorough analysis of your medical history and a thorough clinical consultation.

What are the benefits of fat transfer?

The aims of surgery are to improve the contour of the face. The advantage of achieving this using autologous tissue (i.e. tissue from one's own body) rather than using synthetic implant materials is it feels more natural and, were any infection to occur, the synthetic implant would most likely need to be surgically removed. The operation can be very successful at improving the soft tissue balance within the facial features and thereby increasing patient confidence and improving self esteem.

Where are the scars?

The scars resulting from the fat harvest as well as the fat transfer are all quite small (< 5 mm in length) and where possible hidden in the natural smile/crease lines.

Is the procedure painful?

Fat transfer is not a particularly painful procedure. During the operation local anaesthetic is injected into the site of the fat harvest and fat transfer. On discharge from hospital, any discomfort can usually be managed with simple tablet type painkillers such as paracetamol etc.

How long does it take to recover from surgery?

It is normal to feel lethargic and tired for the first week following surgery. Brusing and swelling and numbness can last for several weeks following surgery. Patients can usually return to work after 2-3 weeks depending on the extent of the surgery and should refrain from contact sports for 3 months.

When will I notice the results and how long will they last?

Up to 50% overcorrection is performed with fat transfer to take into account the fat resorption rate. This adds to the normal expected bruising and swelling which may last several weeks. The final result can usually be judged at around 6-12 months following surgery. Due to the unpredictability of the results, the procedure may need to be repeated.

Will I be told the risks and complications?

Any operation carries with it the risk of complication. Major complications, however, are uncommon following a fat transfer. During your initial consultation Mr Johnson will have a full discussion with you about the risks and complications of surgery. If you decide to go ahead with surgery, these risks will again be discussed as part of the consenting process. Fortunately, with correct patient selection and appropriate procedure selection, the risks are kept to an absolute minimum. It is important that you should be reassured that Mr Johnson will not agree to perform any cosmetic procedure on you unless he feels the benefits significantly outweigh the risks.

What follow-up appointments will there be?

Mr Johnson will come and see you on the ward after your surgery and will review you everyday throughout your hospital stay. After you have been discharged Mr Johnson will arrange to see you in clinic after 7-10 days to review the wounds. He will then make arrangements to see you in clinic for longer term follow-up appointments. You will be given contact details for the hospital and Mr Johnson's secretary should you wish at any time to discuss further aspects of your care or make additional arrangements for review.


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