What Is Fat Transfer?

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When you think of plastic surgery and fat, your mind probably goes to procedures, like liposuction, designed to get rid of unwanted fat bulges or bulk. There is, however, a procedure that is about adding fat back to restore youthful beauty. As a plastic surgeon near Akron, Ohio, Dr. David Hartman cites an increase of 72 percent in popularity for fat-transfer breast augmentation in just the last year. It is also an increasingly popular choice for patients who want youthful beautification of facial features (especially hollowing around the eyes), high-definition body sculpting, and even butt lifting.


But what is fat transfer?


The key idea behind this procedure is moving fat from where it isn’t wanted on the body to new sites where more volume is desired. The living fat used for transfer can be carefully injected for a variety of reasons. Some doctors use it in conjunction with implants to further refine the aesthetic results.


That said, many surgeons (including Dr. Hartman) commonly use fat transfer on its own, as it may be injected in place of implants for a natural augmentation with no concern of rejection, since the fat cells were made by the same body now accepting them back. Fat transfer is also used in situations that would not ever call for implants, such as areas that call for subtle boosts.


To accomplish fat transfer, a plastic surgeon first uses gentle liposuction to harvest living fat cells, which is why the procedure is sometimes referred to as “living fat transfer.” Having the fat cells remaining alive is crucial, since they must be able to integrate themselves back into the body and continue to function normally in their relocated home.


The choice of liposuction technique is very important, since some variations—such as using lasers and heat to “melt” the fat prior to its removal—damage the cells and render them unfit for transfer. The best strategy is gentle, high-definition tumescent liposuction that involves a thin wand called a cannula loosening the fat cells and then suctioning them out. In addition to gathering a significant number of living fat cells, this procedure also allows the surgeon to sculpt the area from which the fat is harvested. This could mean more defined abdominal muscles, slimmed-down love handles, and athletic-looking butt and thighs.


With the fat cells in hand, the surgeon will begin the refining process, which involves removing the liquid and materials that surround the fat cells, leaving only the living cells behind. These purified cells can then be layered back in small amounts in the area to be augmented.


This step is also akin to sculpting, with a practiced surgeon able to create natural-looking results by adding layer after layer until the desired new shape is achieved.


As noted above, fat transfer is an option for natural breast augmentation patients, effective for women who want an increase of about one cup size or less. It is also an ideal solution for woman whose modest amount of breast tissue may not be large enough to allow a surgeon to create a pocket to hold a saline or silicone implant.


Fat transfer around the eyes is a technique to restore youthful beauty to hollows around the eyes, in the temple areas, and to the lips. In high-end cosmetic surgery practices, fat-transfer is a routine adjunct to nearly all facial rejuvenation procedures, such as a facelift or a brow lift.


On the other end of the body are the buttocks, which may be naturally flat or might have sagged a bit due to weight loss or increased skin laxity due to aging. Strategically adding volume can fill out the “rear view” in a procedure known as a Brazilian butt lift, since the fat transfer “lifts” the drooping tissue for a firmer, rounder, more athletic look.


Because fat is being removed and is then added back to the body, fat transfer requires multiple tiny incision sites to allow for the insertion of a thin cannula. An experienced plastic surgeon with an artistic eye will camouflage these incisions in natural folds and creases on the body to disguise them. The tiny incision are generally located in areas that are typically covered by a swimsuit.


For more information about fat transfer—whether for breast augmentation, facial softening, a butt lift, or other body sculpting reasons—contact the Ohio-based office of Dr. David Hartman. Call Fine Arts Skin & Laser at 330-440-0499 or visit fineartsskinandlaser.com.