Fat Transfer (Fat Grafting) to the Face

As we age our dermis of our face thins and we get a sunken look. Regenerative fat grafting provides volume and nutrients to the face.

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What are fat injections or fat transfers?

by Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez

The terms fat injection and Fat Transfer refer to the process of taking fat from your stomach and injecting purified adipose fat tissue into another area of your body.  The goal of the procedure is to add fullness to the face, lips, buttocks or hands. With the face, fat can be transferred to the cheeks, nasolabial folds, jawline, and the lower eye area. A  Fat Transfer to any of these areas will not only give some lifting to the general facial structure, but also improve the look of your skin.

Who can benefit from fat transfer to the face?

My face looks thin and sags--how do I get a youthful, glowing look?

a Maryland patient

As you age, the dermis under your skin thins out. This can leave the face looking thin and has the effect of making the skin look like it sags. This happens to women of all body types: small frame, medium frame, large frame. A Fat Transfer to the face adds fat to the area beneath the skin, and has the effect of 'filling out the face' to a more youthful state.

In addition to filling out wrinkles in the face, highly purified fat injections also enhance the blood circulation in the tissues. This is because there is a population of  adipose stem cells that are collected and concentrated during the fat processing.  Even with only minimal manipulation such as centrifugation, a small plug of Adipose Stem Cells (ASC's) are collected in high density fat grafting.  Thus, a small number of Adipose Stem Cells (ASC's) are reinjected into your face with high density fat processing techniques!

High Density Fat Grafting vs. Cell Enhanced Fat Grafting

Fat grafting has been performed for over 100 years by Plastic Surgeons.  During the past two decades the Fat Transfer procedure has evolved greatly.   More recently, plastic surgeons have refined the processing component of the procedure  to yield a high density fat pellet, which is combined with purified fat.  This technique is referred to as 'High Density Fat Grafting'.  In summary, High Density Fat Grafting is performed using certain fat extraction,  centrifugation, and re-injection parameters.   The beauty of High Density Fat Grafting is that it contains a  small plug of Adipose Stem Cells.

However, high density fat grafting is not the same as Cell Enhanced Fat Grafting , where collagenase is used with centrifugation to increase the population of Adipose Stem Cells. Cell Enhanced Fat Grafting goes a step beyond typical high density fat transfer techniques, and requires IRB or FDA oversight.  Nevertheless, there *are* small ASC populations in high density fat grafts and they can have a positive effect on the skin.  Adipose Stem Cells are truly the new Fountain of Youth, and this is an exciting new field of Plastic Surgery which I discuss frequently in my blog.

What areas of the face benefit from fat injections?

Fat injections are commonly used to rejuvenate the lips, bags under the eyes, cheeks and chin. Fat injections are best used to fill in bags under the eyes, fill out the cheeks and chin areas to lift facial structure, or as an all purpose filler in the face.

As we continue to understand the ageing process better, we have come to appreciate that in some patients, rather than dissecting tissues and surgically lifting, adding soft tissue volume such as fat will make the face look younger. We find ourselves using fat injections and Fat Transfer as an integral part of face lift surgery.

Do fat injections last?

Some patients think that fat injections "do not last". However, this is not the case. When properly done, a large percentage of the injected fat cells do indeed survive and are permanent. However, since some fat cells are lost in the immediate post op period, we tend to 'overcorrect,' or inject more than we need to. After the majority of the swelling is gone, approximately two weeks later, you will have a very good idea of what the final result will be.

How are fat injections different from injectible fillers like Juvederm?

Compared to injectable facial fillers such as Juvederm, the Fat Transfer procedure is more involved because the fat has to first be harvested from another part of the body with Liposuction. However, unlike injectable fillers, Fat Transfers can be used in larger volumes to fill larger defects. And above all, Fat Injections are a natural type of surgical enhancement,  as well as containing a small population of regenerating adipose stem cells.

What is involved in the fat injection procedure for the facial area?

Fat injections can be done under local or sedation anesthesia. Using small syringes, fat is harvested from the hip, inner or outer thigh, lower back, or lower abdomen. The fat is then decanted and processed in a special centrifuge, and is then injected into the desired area.  When performed properly, a large percentage of the Fat Transfer will  'take' and the face will fill out to look more youthful. 

Before and After Fat Transfer Photos

See our gallery of Before and After Fat Transfer photos, all performed by Dr. Ricardo Rodriguez, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon with over 20 years experience. Please note that all of these patients have given their written consent to use the photos at our web site. We are very grateful to our patients for participating in patient education!

How much does Facial Fat Transfer cost?

The physician's fee for Fat Transfer to the face ranges from $1500 to $4000, depending on the area(s) to be injected.  In most cases, the procedure can be performed under local anesthesia. However, if you prefer to be sedated, for additional costs,  the procedure can be done under IV sedation with a Board Certified Anesthesiologist.   If the procedure is done in conjunction with another facial procedure, a professional discount is usually applied. Financing is available. Please call the office at 410-494-8100 for a consultation or Contact Us to discuss your individual needs.

What other parts of the body are fat injections or fat transfers done?

Fat transfers , or Fat Grafting can also be used for the following purposes :

Where can I learn more about Adipose Stem Cells?

You are in luck because Dr. Rodriguez is very involved in Adipose Stem Cell clinical research. He is a member of the ASPS Regenerative Medicine Task Force, which is the group largely responsible for educating and advancing the field of  Adipose Stem Cells among Board Certified Plastic Surgeons.  Dr. Rodriguez and his research team have written extensively about the topic of Adipose Stem Cells on his blog for years.  Here are some popular posts: