Fat Transfer

Fat Transfer

Ever since facial rejuvenation became popular through the use of ‘filling agents’ to correct facial lines, furrows, hollows, and depressions, there has been a never-ending search to find the ‘PERFECT filling agent.

Ideally, this perfect filling agent should be safe, inexpensive, produce long-lasting if not permanent correction, be bio-compatible with the tissues and have a low risk of adverse reactions.

Over the last 30 years many filling agents have appeared on the market. Some have stood the test of time and established themselves as safe and effective treatments. Others disappeared within a relatively short time as large-scale use began uncovering adverse side-effects.

Yet, in spite of the search for the ideal filling agent, we have yet to find that ‘PERFECT filler. All currently-available fillers do have some drawbacks. However, because one’s own fat has many of the properties needed for the ‘ideal filler’, surgeons have regularly attempted to improve Fat Transfer techniques in a quest to enable them to deliver longer-lasting if not permanent corrections.

Unfortunately, Fat Transfer does have its disadvantages, the main ones being:

  • It does require a sterile, surgical technique to extract the fat from your donor site.
  • There is never a guarantee that all the transferred fat will survive in its new location.
  • Usually, only a variable percentage of the transferred fat will survive each time, and so the procedure may need to be repeated one or more times until the desired level of correction is achieved.  Even then, it may not be permanent.

For these reasons along with the availability of so many alternative facial filling agents, we do not recommend Fat Transfers to the face as the first option. Rather, unless a patient specifically requests Fat Transfer to the face, we reserve Fat Transfers for:

  • Body depressions requiring fill
  • Face when there are special circumstances or the patient specifically requests it.

What is Fat Transfer?

Fat Transfer, also called Autologous Fat Transfer or Fat Auto-Grafting, involves removing fat cells from one part of your body and transferring them to another area that needs to be filled.

Donor sites can be anywhere where there is ample or excess fat.  Commonly the outer thighs, buttocks or abdomen are used. The fat is first removed very gently with a special syringe in order to avoid traumatising the fat cells, the fat is then processed to remove its oils and body fluids, and finally the fat is transferred to special syringes for injection into the area needing to be filled.

Naturally, as Fat Transfer is a surgical procedure, it must be performed as a sterile procedure in order to avoid a risk of infection. However, hospital admission may not be necessary. Minor Fat Transfers can be performed using a sterile technique in our Clinic’s own Operating Theatre under Local Anaesthesia with/without Sedation and you can go home shortly afterwards.

In contrast, Breast Augmentation by Fat Transfer would be  more comfortably performed in hospital under General Anaesthesia.

Breast Augmentation by Fat Transfer

In recent times, Breast Augmentation by Fat Transfer has seen a revival  for those women either not wanting implants or being unsuitable for implants.

The ADVANTAGES of Breast Augmentation by Fat Transfer are:

  • The breasts feel totally natural
  • There are no incisions to leave scars on or under the breasts as the fat is injected with a syringe and needle.
  • It slims the body areas from which the fat is harvested.
  • It can be a solution for correcting minor breast asymmetries.
  • It avoids all the potential problems associated with implants.

The DISADVANTAGES of Breast Augmentation by Fat Transfer are:

  • Only a modest increase of cup size should be expected – generally a 1/2 -1 cup size increase only.
  • As only a percentage of the transferred fat cells will survive after any given session, more than one treatment session is usually required to achieve your desired result.
  • Large volume Fat Transfers are not advisable as there is much less chance of the fat cells surviving when compared to small volume transfers – the reason being the greater difficulty of the recipient site keeping large numbers of transferred fat cells alive. Although the final cost with repeated sessions would be greater, small volume transfers definitely have a greater chance of a permanent correction.
  • The total cost from multiple transfer procedures can be considerably higher than a Breast Augmentation using implants.
  • There is the potential issue of micro-calcification in the wake of any fat resorption being detected on Mammograms and which may be difficult to distinguish from the micro-calcification sometimes seen with breast cancers.

How is it done?

Unless your Fat Transfer it is being done as part of a general liposuction procedure, or you are having Breast Augmentation by Fat Transfer, all other Fat Transfers are usually carried out in our own Clinic’s Operating Theatre as a sterile technique under Local Anaesthesia with/without Mild Sedation.

How long will the correction last?

This has always been, and still is, the big question!

The hope is always that with one or two Fat Transfers, the correction will prove to be permanent. However, inability to guarantee permanency of correction has always been the major drawback of Fat Transfers. Over the years, reports on the duration of correction have varied from a few months to permanent.

Essentially, fat cell survival depends on:

  • The technique used to harvest the fat cells: Gentler handling techniques will improve the survival of the fat cells.
  • Your tissue response at the recipient site and its ability to keep the transplanted fat cells alive.
  • The volume of fat transferred. Small volumes of transferred fat cells are more likely to survive than large ones.

What are the possible complications?

As a Fat Transfer uses your own body fat as the donor material, the risks are very few. The main ones specific to this procedure include:

  • Failure of the transplanted fat cells to survive with the correction slowly disappearing as the fat is resorbed. Loss of correction can be partial or total. Usually, only a percentage of the transferred fat remains and so one or more sessions are usually necessary to achieve the desired degree of correction. However, each session does involve repeat costs.
  • Contour irregularities following irregular absorption of the transferred fat can occur. This could produce surface irregularities or shape deformities that may be very difficult or impossible to correct.
  • Calcification within the transferred fat as part of the absorption process can occur and leave irregularities. There is no satisfactory treatment for this outcome.
  • Inadvertent Intravascular Injection of Fat with occlusion of the blood vessel involved and resulting consequences depending on the area supplied by that blood vessel, is a very rare possibility. For example, there have been reports in the medical literature of permanent blindness from accidental injections of fat and dermal fillers into the blood vessels between the eyebrows.
  • General surgical risks associated with any surgical procedure. These include but are not limited to bruising, swelling, hematoma formation, infection and reactions to anaesthetics or medications.

What does it cost?

The cost will depend on the size and number of areas to be corrected. Our Surgeon will give you an itemised quotation at your initial consultation. Being a cosmetic procedure, it is not eligible for a Medicare rebate.

 

Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

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