What is Fat Transfer?
A fat transfer technique uses a patient’s own cells and tissue to renew and rejuvenate portions of a patient’s face where they have experienced volume loss. As we age, the fat pads in our face begin to diminish (see image below), and we lose the structure that keeps our skin tight, so we begin to see wrinkles and creases, along with some sagging and general deflation. This is a process that not only replaces some of that fat in the face to provide structural support for volume loss, but uses a patient’s own platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to stimulate the natural production of collagen. The result is a more natural process that uses your own body’s regenerative cells and fat tissues, providing a completely natural rebuilding of lost collagen and volume with no surgery, and even fewer side effects.
Donofrio LM. Fat distribution: A morphologic study of the aging face. Dermal Surg. 2000; 26(12)1107-1112.
The Procedure: Step-by-Step
Meet Marcie. She has been wanting to do something about the creases that extended from her nose to her lips (nasolabial folds), as well as fill in some of the jowl and cheek areas. She consulted with Dr. Carls at Lake Havasu Cosmedics and decided that a fat transfer process was the better option over fillers for several reasons. First, it was her own fat, so she knew she wouldn’t have any kind of unnatural reaction to it. Secondly, it was more cost effective for her than fillers and will last longer. Third, the PRP was an attractive part of the procedure because it stimulates collagen production and gives the skin a healthy glow.
Marcie, on her way into the building for her fat transfer procedure
Here’s what she experienced.
- Prep: After changing into a gown, Dr. Carls examined her and determined he would take her fat from her belly. Typically fat is taken from the side or belly.
- Blood draw: Doc drew her blood and put it in the centrifuge to spin it down and get the platelet-rich plasma (PRP) that will be used later with the fat injection to the face.
- Pain management: The stomach area was numbed using minimal injections.
- Fat harvesting: A micro-cannula is used to harvest belly fat—this was the most time-consuming part of the procedure and varies from patient to patient. Expect an hour or more.
- Face numbing: A cream is applied to the face to numb the areas for injection.
- Fat preparation: The fat is homogenized by pushing it back and forth in large syringes through a filter to make the fat cells as uniformly small as possible. This helps with a smooth injection into the face and also ensures that there will not be any lumps.
- Face marking: Dr. Carls used a marker to symmetrically mark Marcie’s face. He made a plan for cannula injection sites as well as where the fat should go.
- Fat/PRP injection: The fat/PRP mixture is injected into the face using a very small needle. The physician is able to inject at one site and use the long, thin needle to inject the fat into specific areas. What’s nice about this technique is that there are fewer injection sites because one small hole can be used to just move the needle around under the skin. As the fat is injected, you can see the face actually plump up. The physician is able to physically move the fat around under the skin to achieve the desired look and evenness.
Halfway through! Look at that plump, youthful face on the left side of the photo.
All done! Moments after the procedure is finished. Check out those round cheeks!
Patients see results immediately. Your body needs to adjust to the new fat, so you may see some volume loss over the next few weeks. The idea is that because the PRP is combined with your very own fat cells, you will make regenerate and rejuvenate your own tissue for long-lasting results. There is very minimal to no downtime. The doctor will prescribe some pain medication if needed, but typically the fat removal sites are the only sore area with little or no bruising. Marcie experienced abdomen pain for two days post-procedure and took Tylenol round the clock to manage it. She reported no bruising on her face and two very small bruises on her stomach.
A week after the procedure, she says, “I would do it again in a heartbeat!”
Two days post-procedure Five days post-procedure
Am I a Candidate?
By age 40, you’ve likely experienced 20% collagen loss, and by age 50, 30%. If you are starting to notice these signs of aging in the face—wrinkles, rough texture, dull tone, structure and volume loss—then you’re likely a good candidate for fat transfer. Because fat is taken from the belly or sides, your overall health should be considered as well.