Fat transfer to the face, also known as facial fat grafting or lipofilling, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that uses your body’s own fat to fill in aging areas of your face such as sunken cheeks and hollows under the eyes.
As you get older, your face naturally begins to lose the volume and shape it had in your youth, and this is where facial fat transfer comes in.
It aims to restore a more youthful appearance but can also help with other problems such as scars. Facial fat grafting can be performed alone or be used to optimize the results of a major facial-rejuvenating procedure such as a facelift.
What to Expect During Facial Fat Grafting
Fat transfer to face involves these three steps:
- Removing fat from the donor area, usually the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks, using liposuction techniques.
- Processing the withdrawn fat through decantation and centrifugation to remove dead cells, blood, and debris, leaving only viable fat cells to be used.
- Reinjection of the cleaned fat into the targeted facial area in small droplets throughout the subcutaneous tissue, which allows the transplanted fat to receive adequate blood supply from surrounding healthy tissue.
Before the procedure, both the donor and recipient areas are usually numbed with a local anesthetic. However, if larger volumes of fat are required, general anesthesia may be recommended.
Length of procedure
A fat transfer to face procedure typically takes between 30 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the area to be treated. And although it’s a day case procedure, sometimes an overnight stay might be needed.
Who is suitable for fat transfer to face?
Facial fat grafting is a highly individualized procedure. Do it only for yourself, i.e., if you strongly feel you could benefit from volume augmentation and its rejuvenating properties. You should never undergo the procedure to please someone else or to try to fit a particular idealized image.
That said, you may be a suitable candidate for a facial fat graft if you:
- Are in good physical health
- Have a positive outlook and realistic expectations
- Are a nonsmoker
- Understand the risks of the procedure
- Are unhappy with the volume of your face or have had reconstructive facial surgery
- Are committed to maintaining good skin health
With cosmetic surgeries, you may not be a good candidate if you have serious health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease such as high blood pressure, heart attack, coronary artery disease, heart failure, a bleeding disorder, obesity, and depression.
How long do the results last?
During the procedure, your surgeon may overfill the recipient area to compensate for the percentage of transferred fat cells that will inevitably be reabsorbed by your body. The healthy cells that are left establish a blood supply to receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive.
Whеn this hарреnѕ, your final rеѕultѕ should be relatively permanent, with the surviving transferred fat even growing with weight gain. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), between 50 and 80% of the transplanted fat survives.
Various factors can impact how long your results last, including:
- The skill of your surgeon. The more skilled and experienced your surgeon is, the better his/her understanding of facial fat grafting, and consequently, more permanent results.
- How well your body adapts to the transferred fat. A percentage of the transferred fat may not survive, which is why although the procedure is considered permanent, 2-3 follow-up treatments may be required to achieve the desired results.
Note: Your surgeon assesses your final results after three months. However, you may start to see noticeable results in the first few weeks following your procedure.
Fat transfer to face cost
If you’re thinking of getting a facial fat graft, one of the questions you undoubtedly have is how much does fat transfer to face cost? Usually, the amount will vary from one practice to another and even from patient to patient. Your actual cost of fat transfer to face will depend on various factors, including:
- Practice location
- Surgeon’s expertise
- Anesthesia and operating room costs
- Length and complexity of the procedure
According to Consumer Guide to Plastic Surgery, the cost for fat transfer can range from as low as $350 to more than $5000. In one practice in Maryland, for instance, it costs $4,000 – $6,000 on average for a facial fat graft.
Does insurance cover facial fat transfer?
If for reconstructive purposes, fat transfer to the face will generally be covered by insurance as it’s considered a medical necessity. However, purely cosmetic facial fat grafting will not be covered.
For such a procedure, you can consider getting financing from professional medical care financing companies that offer quick loan approval at competitive interest rates.
Pros and cons of fat transfer to the face
Facial fat transfer has various benefits, including:
- Restoring youthful appearance through volume augmentation of dented or wrinkled areas such as the nasolabial folds, sunken cheeks, and marionette lines
- Improving or reducing the appearance of scars
- Enhancing skin texture and appearance
Additionally, compared to dermal fillers, the results of fat transfer to the face are long-lasting and permanent. The plumping effect of dermal fillers tends to fade within six to twelve months.
Since facial fat transfer is a surgical procedure, so although low risk, it poses some risks, and side effects such as:
- Anesthesia complications
- Overfilling or underfilling the areas to be treated
- Possible scarring
Note: Your risks are minimized at the hands of a qualified plastic surgeon, so verifying your surgeon’s credentials is crucial to your health and safety.
Fat transfer to face recovery
Fat transfer recovery is typically fast, with most patients able to resume work and other social activities within a week. However, you won’t be able to exercise for several weeks. And you will likely be advised to start with low impact activities first like walking before starting strenuous activities like intense aerobic activities.
After a facial fat transfer, you may experience mild discomfort, which prescribed pain medication can help manage. Any bruising and redness should usually subside within 48 hours, during which time you should stay out of the sun. Makeup can help conceal your condition in the meantime. As for the swelling, it may last for several weeks or months.
How to reverse fat transfer to the face
After the reabsorption of a percentage of the transplanted fat, facial fat transfers are considered permanent hence irreversible. So under correcting the target area is preferred to over correcting since it can always be followed up by a series of fat transfers to reach your ideal results.
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- International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (n.d). Fat Transfer (facial). isaps.org/procedures/facial-plastic-surgery/fat-transfer-facial/
- American Society of Plastic surgeons ( ASPS) December 15, 2015.Fat grafting history and applications. plasticsurgery.org/news/blog/fat-grafting-history-and-applications
- Medstar Plastic and Reconstructive surgery(n.d).Facial Fat Grafting Overview. medstarprs.org/procedures/facial-fat-grafting/
- John Hopkins (n.d).Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. hopkinsmedicine.org/plastic_reconstructive_surgery/services-appts/facial_fat_grafting.html