Fat Transfer And How It Works

Have you ever come across someone, who says they're happy with their body and wouldn't change a single thing? It is a true rarity. It's natural to want to correct imperfections in our body and fantasise about being able to just shift those fat cells from our belly to our buttocks. And in this technological advanced era, it can be easily done too, with a procedure called fat transfer, which is a process of moving fat cells from one part of the body to another to achieve natural looking results.

“Fat grafting is a surgical procedure where fat cells are taken from one part of a patient’s body and transferred into another area. Fat grafting is useful for adding volume in areas where more fullness is desired and improving contours. The fat is harvested either with syringe aspiration or liposuction. Generally fat is extracted from a location where the patient has an excess of fatty tissue. The fat cells are washed and purified then carefully introduced into the recipient areas with small caliber blunt tipped needles. "There are no scars from this procedure," said Neal Handel, Senior Plastic Surgeon at American British Surgical & Medical Centre, Dubai.

The purpose of fat transfer treatment

• The effects of fat transfer procedure is more pronounced on facial areas that appear wrinkled and sunken, like lips.
• The procedure is popularly used for breast, buttock and calf augmentation. Some refer to it as natural augmentation rather than 'implants'.
• People opt for fat transfer to improve body contours, refill bodily depressions and give a rejuvenated look to the hands and face

Dr Faisal Salim. Plastic, Reconstructive and Cosmetic Surgeon at Dubai Cosmetic Surgery explains:

“If you are in good general health, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate for this procedure and it can be used to treat an array of cosmetic needs, including:

Facial fat transfer: If you have facial creases, such as laughter lines, smile lines, and crow’s-feet, fat can be removed from your abdomen, thighs, or other areas and injected into your face. Acne scars and sunken areas of the face, lips, and cheeks can also be filled in. Your plastic surgeon can even use grafted fat to minimise lines between your nose and mouth, correct skin depressions or indentations and minimise forehead wrinkles.

Breast augmentation: If you desire a modest increase in breast size, you are a good candidate for fat grafting to the breast, but your breasts should already have a nice shape and good skin tone. If you have poor skin, sagging breasts, or want a significant increase in breast size, breast augmentation with fat transfer is not for you.

Breast implants plus fat grafting: If your breast shape needs optimising during a breast implant procedure, fat grafting can be useful. If you have residual breast irregularities after undergoing breast augmentation with implants, the irregularities can be filled in with fat to produce a smooth contour and an optimal shape.

Breast reconstruction with fat grafting: If you have breast defects following lumpectomy, fat grafting is an effective method for filling in these defects. Fat grafting is also an option for total breast reconstruction following mastectomy; however, to achieve sufficient breast volume, this is usually a multistage process that requires at least two to four sequential fat grafting procedures.

Buttock augmentation with fat grafting: Many people who desire a fuller, more rounded buttock will opt for a “Brazilian butt lift,” which uses fat transfer to provide a more curvaceous buttock without the use of an implant. Liposuction is commonly used to both sculpt the surrounding area and collect the autologous fat to be injected.

Hand rejuvenation with fat grafting: Fat grafting into your hands is effective for adding volume, “plumping up” wrinkled areas, covering underlying vessels and tendons and improving the quality of your skin over time.”

Who should avoid the treatment?

• As treatment requires transferring your own body fat cells, one case where the patient is advised not to go for it, is when the patient is so slim that she or he doesn't have any area with excess fat suitable for lipo-aspiration.
• People on blood thinners & cardiac problems should avoid this procedure. Otherwise there is no contraindication for this procedure.
• Those who have circulation problems either from a medical condition or from the long-term side effects of smoking.

Advantages of the  treatment

Many patients prefer that this is a solution that is relatively natural, in that it's your own body cells that are used as opposed to artificial implants. The benefits of fat grafting can include a more youthful appearance and more proportioned and symmetrical physique. It is a minimally invasive treatment which does not require an overnight stay at the hospital. Additionally, it does not require prosthesis to rejuvenate face and hands.

No risk of implant allergic reaction

Dr Thomas Colson, Consultant in Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery at Euromed Clinic Center said, “Autologous tissue (fat from your own body), as opposed to dermal fillers, replaces “like with like”. There are no risk of allergic reactions to foreign substances. Also, fat transfer is a method for achieving body rejuvenation. Not only fat will be transferred, but also stem cells and growth factors. And these are the key factors for a rejuvenation.

Effective in restoring tissue

“In some cases, transferring fat to the breasts can add volume without the need for implants. Fat transfer is also effective in restoring tissue that has been previously scarred or damaged. It can also help increase tissue sensitivity in people have undergone mastectomy procedures”, said Dr Faisal Salim of Dubai Cosmetic Surgery Dubai Cosmetic Surgery.

Skin rejuventation

Dr Dany Kayle, Medical Director at Dr Kayle Aesthetic Clinic said, “With every fat transfer, stem cells are transferred with the same lot at the same time. Those stem cells, when injected with fat in certain area like the face, can transform into a specific type of cells, called Fibroblasts, which will keep secreting collagen in the area, contributing to its rejuvenation.”

Disadvantages of the treatment

The most highlighted disadvantage of the treatment is that it is a time consuming process, it takes a good time to prepare fat tissues before transferring it and patient may require multiple sessions to achieve the required results.

Over correction

“One potential downside of fat grafting is that there is some variability in how much of the transferred fat “survives”. We know that typically there is not “100% take” of the grafted cells. For this reason we intentionally “over correct” by approximately by 50% because we know there will be some loss of volume post operatively. In some cases, because of partial loss of the correction from   resorption of fat cells, the procedure may need to be repeated to achieve the best final result”, said Neal Handel of American British Surgical & Medical Centre, Dubai.

Depression and bulges

Other possible disadvantages are “Bleeding, infection and scarring, localised bulges or depressions, and some grafted fat may scar forming cysts or knots deep in the skin”, explains Dr. Amany Morshed, Specialist Dermatologist at  Aster Clinic, Arabian Ranches / Aster Beauty Clinic, Al Warqa.

Medical fitness required before the procedure

• Stop smoking to avoid poor healing and scarring
• Maintain a stable weight
• Avoid taking aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs: Advil, Motrin, Aleve) and vitamins/homeopathic regimens that can increase bleeding.
• Stay hydrated
• Take health-checkup test to assess the fitness levels
• Maintain an ideal physique is recommended, however, a strict fitness regime is not a requirement before a fat transfer procedure.  

Success story at Dubai Cosmetic Surgery

I had a patient in her 50’s who was unhappy with the guttering in between her fingers at the back of her hands. The quality and texturing of the skin also had diminished. A fat transfer procedure helped 
to volumise the hands and also to restore a youthful quality to them.

Success story at Dr Kayle Aesthetic Clinic

I had a patient born with mandibular atresia (deficiency in the bone of the jaw) where adequate fat transfer under local anesthesia achieved a good coverage of the defect and saved the patient a major surgery.

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