Fat grafting, also known as fat transfer, is the placement of fat from one part of the body into another. This procedure is usually performed on the face, where the subcutaneous fat thins as people age. This facial thinning can make the cheeks and eyes appear drawn as the face loses the roundness of youth. Fat transfer replaces the lost fat to make the fat appear fuller and younger.
During fat grafting, fat is removed from one part of the body through liposuction and inserted into another part of the body where a fuller appearance is desired. Because the transferred fat belongs to the patient, the body accepts it without an allergic reaction. A small incision is made into the thighs, for example, and fat is extracted. The fat is placed into its new location using a micro-injection technique. No incisions are made to insert the fat. Multiple, small injections are made around the eyes and in the cheeks, for example, to fill out the skin evenly in all areas.
The procedure is done while the patient is under local anesthesia and sometimes a light oral sedative. Commonly, the patient will experience bruising, swelling, and some pain following the procedure, but it should resolve in a few days. The extent of these side effects will vary according to the patient and the scope of the procedure performed. Patients can usually return to normal activities in a week.
Fat grafting works best when the fat is placed in areas that tend to move less, like the cheeks. Fat placed around the eyes may not last as long because the eyes are involved in most facial expressions.
In general, less than half the grafted fat will stay where it was placed. The body will absorb some of it in the first three months following the procedure. The exact percentage of fat that remains varies according to technique used and the patient’s body, but estimates are between 35-60%. The remaining fat can last up to three years.