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Understanding Fat Transfers

Fat transfer involves removing body fat from one location and moving it to another. The goal of the procedure is to improve contour, correct defects, or enhance features. For example, fat can be transferred from the abdomen to replace facial fat that is lost due to aging, to enlarge lips or to augment the buttocks (also called "Brazilian butt lift"). Transferred fat lasts longer in areas of non-movement. So the procedure is very successful for the correction of facial hollows and aging of the hands. But not every area of the body is appropriate for fat transfer. For instance, the breasts usually should not be injected because fat reduces the accuracy of mammograms.

Fat injections are semi-permanent and a variable amount of any injected fat will not survive the transfer process. It is not uncommon to require a repeat of fat injections to maintain the final desirable result. Occasionally, no matter how many times fat is injected, it will not "take" or stay in a particular area. However, because fat transfer uses an individual's own fat cells, it cannot be rejected or cause an allergic reaction.


Understanding the Procedure

Fat transfer is performed as an outpatient procedure. Both the donor site and the treatment site are anesthetized. An anesthetic solution is infused into the donor area to make the procedure pain-free and to minimize bruising and bleeding afterwards. Using a small cannula attached to a syringe, fat is removed from a donor site where the fat is most tightly packed, such as the hips, abdomen or buttocks. Once removed, the fat is processed to remove excess fluids and placed into smaller syringes for injection. The transferred fat is injected into the treatment site under the skin and/or deeper into the tissue. This process may be repeated until the desired result has been achieved. The one or two tiny punctures made to remove and inject the fat require no sutures. Although fat transfer can be performed as a solitary procedure, it is frequently performed with facelift, liposuction, and eyelid surgery in order to achieve the best result.


Understanding the Recovery

The recovery time from fat transfer is almost negligible. Discomfort following the procedure is usually mild and is controlled with medication. In most cases, patients return to normal activities almost immediately. Bruising, swelling, and tightness are common and resolve in a week or two. Complications, while rare, include infection and areas of reduced sensation which is usually temporary.

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