When aging patients consult plastic surgeons for facial rejuvenation, they often confine their thinking to skin tightening processes, exclusively unaware that facial atrophy is often a dominant factor for their aged appearance. In fact sometimes the only rejuvenation process recommended by Dr. Eric Okamoto, our board-certified plastic surgeon, is facial volume restoration with fat grafting. There is no doubt that certain areas of our faces “shrink” with time. As we age, our skin loses fat at multiple sites, from the temples down to the jawline. A youthful face is full, whereas many old faces appear empty or deflated. Fat injections, also referred to as fat transfer or fat grafting, can restore volume and fullness to facial features and significantly reduce common signs of aging. With this advanced procedure, Dr. Okamoto can restore a youthful, vibrant appearance with results that look natural.
What are the benefits of fat injections?
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Fat injections offer a variety of benefits for patients who are looking to:
- Add volume to facial features that frequently shrink, such as the temples, upper and lower eyelids, cheeks, nasolabial folds, lips, chin, and jawline
- Reduce signs of wrinkles and give the skin a smoother appearance
- Reduce signs of mild scarring and other skin damage
- Enhance beautifying facial contours and definition of certain facial features
When fat injections are contemplated as a treatment, a patient’s weight history should be considered. For those who have had wild swings in their weight in the past, fat grafts might be contraindicated because the fat transferred in someone who gains considerable weight afterwards might experience facial distortion as the fat volume expands. Hence, fat injections in younger patients to volumize requested facial characteristics (e.g. enhanced cheeks) – where an historical perspective is lacking – should be performed conservatively or perhaps not done at all.
Fat Transfer Procedure
Fat transfer procedures are performed on an outpatient basis. During the operation, excess fat must be delicately removed from a “donor” area of your body – typically the abdomen or flanks, but almost any site with excess fat can be utilized. A small harvesting cannula is employed to ensure that the fat particles planned for transfer are tiny pellets that will increase their chance for long-term survival. After the fat is extracted, it is spun down in a centrifuge to separate it from the unwanted portions of the harvest. This fat is transferred to 1 Ml syringes to further enhance the chance of survival of the transferred fat by spreading it as small aliquots that allow for more contact to existing blood vessels. For some specialized goals where “nanofat” is required, the fat is filtered down to even smaller particles before injecting. When these measures are followed carefully, the transferred fat has the best chance to restore fullness. However, it must be understood that, even under the best conditions, not all of the transferred fat permanently survives. Several months after a fat transfer operation, when the surviving fat can be more accurately determined, an appraisal can be made as to whether a satisfactory result has been achieved or if another attempt should be considered to add more volume.
When fat successfully fills out the facial areas that have lost volume with aging, it is often remarkable how youthful the face becomes. Although volume restoration with fat injections is sometimes done alone, it is usually combined with other facial enhancement procedures, such as facelift or eyelid surgery, for a more comprehensive rejuvenation.
Fat Transfer Recovery
The recovery process for fat transfer varies from patient to patient, depending upon the extent of treatment necessary; however, many patients experience only minimal downtime after this treatment. Bruising and swelling in the treatment areas are common effects following the procedure and should subside rather quickly; discomfort can be controlled with medication.
The results from fat injections should be immediately noticeable and continue to improve as post-operative swelling dissipates. Since not all of the fat transferred survives, generally an accurate assessment of the fat that will continue to live is at about three months following the procedure. One of the advantages of fat transfer treatments is that the effects will last much longer than that of other cosmetic injectable procedures – in most cases, the results have lasted for years.
Dr. Eric Okamoto will be happy to answer any questions you may have about fat injections and fat transfer procedures. Please contact us today for more information, or to schedule a consultation.