Fat Transfer to the Face or Facial Fat Transfer is a relatively simple yet effective cosmetic procedure used to volumize and rejuvenate the face. Fat transfer uses the patients own fat cells, harvested from a donor site, purified and micronized, and then injected with small cannulas to provide a natural volume and balance to the face.
The fat transfer procedure is commonly performed in the operating room for multiple areas of the face or as an office-based procedure when applied to smaller areas such as the lips. The treatment is individualized to meet the goals of the patient and is combined with Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) for added rejuvenative potential.
- Most patients desiring increased volume to the face are able to achieve their desired results with just one simple procedure.
Facial rejuvenation can be achieved through several different techniques, with the most common being in-office procedure being an injectable gel such as a hyaluronic acid filler (Juvederm® or Restylane®), which can last for up to one year. Facial fat grafting can be done as a stand-alone procedure or combined with a facelift or blepharoplasty to provided long-lasting volume. The best procedure for you depends on your goals for facial rejuvenation and define whether a facial fat transfer is an option. Dr. Trussler will discuss your goals to help you decide which treatment option is best for you to achieve the natural facial volume you desire.
What Are My Facial Fat Transfer Options?
The most common fat transfer options involve removing fat from a donor site with gentle liposuction and then reinjection of the purified fat cells to enhance the volume of the face. Your own body’s growth factors in the form of Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) may be used as well. In order to be a good candidate for facial fat transfer, the patient must have a donor site to be able to harvest fat from. This should be an area which has not been harvested prior to avoid scarred and non-viable fat cells. Some of the areas commonly used by Dr. Trussler for facial fat transfer include the lower abdomen, the inner thighs, the outer hips, the upper arms.
Each of these different donor sites could be used, but only a small amount of fat is needed. You can discuss these donor site options further with Dr. Trussler in order to determine which is best for you.
Common areas for facial fat grafting include:
- Temples to fill in the hollows in the upper face and lift the brow
- Outer Brow to help volumize and shape this area
- Upper Eyelids to fill in hollowness with micronized fat
- Lower Eyelids to replace lost volume and fill in the tear trough region
- Cheeks to provide volume and shape to the cheeks
- Deep Malar Space in the inner the cheek which is a high yield area for a youthful appearance
- Nasolabial Folds which can be filled with fat
- Lips to give lasting and natural volume
- Lower Cheeks to fill in hollowness
- Lower Face to help lift the corners of the mouth and prejowl region
It is important to discuss all options for treatment with Dr. Trussler in order to achieve the safest and most effective results for your facial fat grafting procedure. A patient who presents for their first facial volumetric procedure should be conservative with the choice of injection and the amount. Hyaluronic acid fillers are relatively inexpensive, non-permanent, safe, and easily injected in the office with limited downtime. This may be performed as a first step prior to considering a facial fat transfer. Utilizing your own bodies tissue requires a donor site from another area in the body, which is invasive and more expensive, though these types of fat grafting may be longer lasting. Fat transfer can be combined with other cosmetic procedures such as liposuction and facial procedures such as facelifts, cheek lifts, and blepharoplasty
Through facial fat transfer, patients can achieve a more youthful volume throughout the face with minimal downtime and few side effects. With realistic expectations and good overall health, most patients are satisfied with the results of this procedure. Of note, volume can be added with the addition of a hyaluronic acid filler layered on top of any fat transfer technique, or additional fat may be added to a second fat transfer procedure.
Fat cells must be handled carefully and injected gently to ensure the viability of the fat transfer. Approximately 50 to 70% of the fat injected will survive and grow in the injection area. Swelling and bruising can be minimized with proper injection techniques with small cannulas and the addition of PRP.
Fat grafting procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and small areas can usually be done in the office in less than an hour under a local anesthesia. Full face fat transfer is most commonly performed in the operating room under some modality of monitored anesthesia.
For office-based fat transfer, the fat is harvested from a donor site which is anesthetized and the fat is removed with a gentle hand liposuction technique. The fat is then cleaned and purified of all other tissue and fluid and then passed through a filter which micronizes the fat so it can be easily injected through small cannulas. Platelet Rich Plasma is centrifuged from the patient’s blood and incorporated into the fat prior to injection. The fat is then injected in small amounts through small puncture sites with small cannulas. Proper placement of the fat in each area is important in order to achieve optimal results. Ice is used immediately after to help decrease swelling.
Fat injection to the entire face or multiple areas generally follow the same technique, other than the fat may be harvested from multiple areas of the body because more fat is needed and then injected into multiple areas of the face. Dr. Trussler does prefer to do this full face fat transfer procedure in the operating room and is usually combined with other cosmetic procedures like liposuction or facelifts.
After Care & Recovery
After facial fat transfer, patients may experience mild discomfort and swelling for about one week, although these side effects usually subside on their own and are limited to the use of ice. The lips may appear to be overfilled and uneven at first, since there may be more swelling in one area versus the others. The final result is usually appreciated at four weeks. The donor site where the fat is harvested from may have minor swelling and bruising which may last for about 1 week. There are no stitches to be removed.
Most patients can return to work and other normal activities within one to two days after the procedure, although exercise and other strenuous activities should be avoided for a bit longer. Recovery from full face fat grafting and the other combined procedures may take longer.
Depending on the amount of fat injected, patients may require multiple treatments over time to maintain their desired results though fat is long lasting. Touch-ups can be performed after four weeks with injectable fillers if needed.
*Disclaimer: Results and individual patient experience may vary.