Fat transfer in plastic surgery has many uses, including hand rejuvenation, breast reconstruction and augmentation, buttock enhancement, scar revision, and facial rejuvenation.
Fat transfer uses donor fats collected via liposuction, which are then sorted, washed, and purified to come up with the healthiest cells to be re-injected into the area that needs to be augmented or reshaped.
- Gaunt facial regions
Facial soft tissue atrophy or shrinkage is caused by significant weight loss and aging. The submalar, or the area below the cheekbone, is particularly prone to this age-related problem.
While dermal fillers such as Restylane, Radiesse, and Juvederm are easier to use—because they are readily available materials with good safety track record—proponents of fat transfer in plastic surgery suggest that it provides more natural results and feel because the cells have the same cohesiveness as the surrounding tissue.
Despite the benefits of fat transfer, it is not ideal for lips and other non-static facial areas due to poor survival rate and highly variable results.
- Breast reconstruction and augmentation
In breast reconstruction, fat transfer is more commonly used to hide the breast implant edges and other contour irregularities. The idea is to provide additional soft tissue coverage to achieve a more natural result and “feel.”
Fat transfer is also helpful in cosmetic breast augmentation, although most patients can only expect a “conservative” cup size increase, i.e., about one cup per session/surgery. It is important to note that injecting volume that is beyond what the tissue and skin capacity can hold will lead to poor survival rate of grafts.
- Buttock augmentation
Instead of butt implants, some patients have the option to use their donor fats to reshape and augment their “behind.” However, most will need a minimum of 500 cc of “processed” fat per butt cheek for a visible improvement. Of course, tall or “large built” individuals will need at least 800-1,000 cc per side to compensate for their body frame.
Nowadays, buttock augmentation via fat transfer is more commonly referred to as Brazilian butt lift.
Despite the benefits of Brazilian butt lift, patients will face some limiting factors such as the amount of healthy donor fats, skin tautness in their buttocks, and body frame.
- Hand rejuvenation
Just like the face, the hand is also susceptible to age-related soft tissue atrophy, making fat transfer a possible option. However, some doctors prefer dermal fillers because of their more predictable results.