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Fat Transfer

Is fat the enemy? Or is it our best friend? Current research shows that the latter is true — fat is our friend! It turns out that fat is extremely durable. This quality makes it possible to relocate fat to different parts of the body. Modern techniques allow the board-certified plastic surgeons at our practice to perform a fat transfer, which is done by removing fat from areas where patients do not want it (often the abdomen or hips) and moving it to places where patients want more volume or fullness. The fat can be placed anywhere on the face or body. The most common sites for fat transfer for our patients from Torrance, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Long Beach, and other South Bay communities are the face, breasts, and buttocks.

Fat Injection
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Common Sites for Fat Transfer:

  • Face
  • Breasts/Chest
  • Buttocks

Fat Transfer to the Face

As we age, the skin loses essential volume and elasticity, resulting in wrinkles, lines, and indentations. This is most apparent in the face. The fat that gives us the full cheeks and smooth skin of our youth begins to break down, and the face loses its youthful contours and plumpness. This volume can be restored with fillers, but most fillers only last a few months so they have to be repeated. In contrast, fat provides permanent volume restoration to the face and it is entirely natural. These characteristics make the face the most common site for fat transfer.

Fat can be injected into various areas on the face. The most common area is the cheek. Other areas include the hallow areas along the lower eyelids, the “smile lines” also known as the nasolabial folds, the temples, lips, nose, chin, and jawline.

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Can I have fat transfer to my face if I have used fillers in the past?

Absolutely, yes! Fat is an excellent alternative or supplement to facial fillers including JUVÉDERM®, Restylane®, RADIESSE®, and Sculptra®. Injected fat will not interfere with any of these products. One of the many benefits of fat is that it is permanent, in contrast to most of the fillers available. In fact, getting fat transfer to the face is more economical than fillers in the long run since it offers permanent results. Patients often comment that fat feels and looks more natural than fillers as well.

Fat Transfer to the Breasts

Fat transfer to the breasts is a common technique in Los Angeles. This procedure is often referred to as Natural Breast Augmentation or Natural Breast Enhancement. Fat is usually taken from the hips, abdomen, or thighs via liposuction through small incisions. The fat is then processed and injected into the breasts through small incisions measuring less than the width of your fingernail. The injected fat lasts forever, in contrast to implants which have a limited lifespan. Most patients can expect an increase in one cup size with this procedure. The procedure can be repeated for those patients that prefer to have a larger increase in their breast size.

It is important to note that there are some concerns regarding fat transfer to the breasts due to breast cancer screening with mammograms. If you are considering fat transfer to the breasts, also known as Natural Breast Enhancement or Natural Breast Augmentation, please discuss this with your Torrance physician during your initial consultation at South Bay Plastic Surgeons.

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Fat Transfer to the Chest in Men

Many men notice that their chest appears to sag or droop with age. This is partially related to loss of fat and muscle along the upper chest that fills out the chest skin at younger ages. One way to restore this contour is to add fat to the upper chest. This can give the appearance of a healthy, younger, and more muscular chest. Fat transfer to this area is simple, satisfying, and requires minimal recovery time.

Fat Transfer to the Buttocks

Traditional augmentation of the buttock area requires buttock implants. Implants in this location can be very uncomfortable while sitting. A new alternative to buttock implants is fat! During a Brazilian butt lift procedure, fat is typically removed from unwanted areas over the hips and thighs. Removal of fat in these areas helps to sculpt and accentuate the shape of the buttocks. The removed fat is then transferred to the central buttocks in order to improve projection and create a youthful round buttock shape. Only a few small incisions are required instead of the larger incisions required for implants and recovery time is minimal! Also, the transferred fat lasts forever, in contrast to implants that may eventually need to be replaced.

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How Is Fat Transfer Done?

Fat transfer is an outpatient procedure with minimal recovery and minimal scarring. Fat is harvested using traditional liposuction through a few small incisions, typically less than the width of your fingernail. The fat is then processed to remove the excess fluid and damaged fat cells. The remaining healthy fat cells are injected into any area of the face or body using a needle. The fat is placed in small droplets under the skin and deeper in the tissues to add volume and projection.

Recovery After Fat Transfer

Results are immediate and recovery is minimal. Patients go home the same day as the procedure. Most patients experience some noticeable bruising and swelling following their procedure for a period of 1 to 2 weeks. Most patients can return to full function within one week. It may take up to 6 months for new blood vessels to grow and for the new fat to become fully integrated into the area. Some of the injected fat will be absorbed by the body over the first 6 months, so patients may need follow-up treatments. This will be evaluated approximately 6 months after the procedure when swelling has completely resolved and early results are visible. Firmer, smoother skin and improved contour will persist for many decades following initial treatments!

The History of Fat Transfer

Fat has been used to add volume to parts of the face and body for decades and its many uses continue to evolve. Fat transfer developed along with the advancement of liposuction in the 1980s. As liposuction techniques improved over the past few decades, techniques for preservation and transfer of this fat also improved. Current fat transfer techniques involve using low levels of suction to prevent damage of the cells during liposuction harvesting. Processing of the fat is performed through a variety of methods, again with care to avoid damaging the cells. The concentrated fat is then injected into the face or body in small droplets to allow blood vessels to grow into the fat and allow the fat cells to live forever in their new environment. Some of the injected fat is absorbed by the body, but the remaining fat stays alive permanently.

Fat transfer is a technique that has many names. Some of these alternative names include:

  • Stem cell transfer
  • Fat grafting
  • Fat injection
  • Lipostructure
  • Liposculpting
  • Lipo-injection
  • Lipo-filling
  • Micro-grafting

How Does Fat Transfer Work?

Recent research has shown that fatty tissue may contain stem cells. These are natural cells that exist in the body. Stem cells have the ability to multiply and adapt to their environment. This may allow them to add thickness to the skin or create more blood flow, providing more nutrition to the surrounding tissues. In fact, some research has shown that transferred fat cells can actually improve skin that has been damaged from scars, radiation, or aging. Our patients who have a fat transfer in Torrance often notice improvement of their skin quality and appearance starting within a few weeks after the procedure. Certainly the added volume from the fat cells also provides improved contour of the treated areas as well.

Is Fat Transfer Safe?

Fat transfer has been performed safely for over 30 years. Mild complications have been reported including small lumps or cysts under the skin. Most of these complications have been minimized with newer techniques of small droplet injection. Fat injection is very safe and approved for use in the face, breast, and body. There are some reservations regarding fat transfer to the breasts due to breast cancer screening with mammograms. If you are considering fat transfer to the breasts in Torrance, also known as Natural Breast Augmentation or Natural Breast Enhancement, you should discuss this during your consultation with one of the doctors at South Bay Plastic Surgeons.

Can I Save Some Fat for Later?

Yes! The doctors at South Bay Plastic Surgeons currently have the ability to save your fat for later use. That way you can have some young, healthy fat saved up for later when you need it. The fat you currently don’t want on your tummy, hips, or thighs is removed through liposuction and banked in a specialized freezer at an official fat banking center. You can then use that fat later whenever you want to add volume to various parts of your face or body, or if you just want some youthful fat cells to rejuvenate your skin. Fat banking is available now and it will likely become more common in the future as more banking centers become available. Come in for a consultation with one of the South Bay Plastic Surgeons to discuss your options.

For more information about fat transfer at our Torrance practice, request a consultation online at South Bay Plastic Surgeons. Or you can call our office at (310) 784-0644 and one of our helpful staff members will schedule your appointment.

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