Other associated terms: Microlipoinjection, Fat Transfer, Autologous Fat Transfer
Fat injections are procedures in which fat is obtained from a location on your own body and transferred (injected) into a different site(s). For many years, the removal of fat has been a primary goal of many individuals with a huge industry built around that goal. So why replace fat that has been removed? The answer is simple.
Strategically placed fat can actually enhance a person’s appearance. During the natural process of aging, fatty tissues that once gave us a rounded, youthful appearance can start breaking down – leading to wrinkles and sagging skin. The introduction of fat into these areas can help alleviate that condition without the downtime associate with more invasive surgical procedures.
Also, Lip and Chin Augmentation are popular procedures designed to give a more aesthetically pleasing appearance that some might associate with celebrities or fashion industry models. But fat injections are not only useful for facial procedures. They can be used in butt augmentation (e.g. “Brazilian Butt Lift”), hand contouring and breast augmentations, as well.
Fat injection procedures, by removing fine lines and wrinkles, can give you a more youthful look. The shape of the face can also be “molded”, thus restoring contours associated with a younger appearance. Since the material is taken from the patient’s own body, the chance of foreign material rejection is also eliminated.
Ideal facial injection patient characteristics include those who are in good health physically and psychologically who want to establish a more youthful look. The changes in appearance can be related to sagging, wrinkled skin but can also include issues such as minor scarring and facial contours. Patients must also have realistic expectations of procedural results and understand that there may be result duration limits. The patients will also desire a faster return to normal activity as opposed to a more invasive procedure, such as a facelift.
With fat injections used in breast and butt augmentations, the primary consideration is the elimination of rejection possibilities inherent with using filler material from your own body.
All fat injection procedures have some things in common. The procedure, itself, involves two steps and will necessitate more than one doctor’s visit. The fat, of course, must be removed (harvested) from a location on the patient’s body. The usual sites for harvesting are the hips and abdomen. For example, harvesting from the abdomen is what gives a Brazilian Butt Lift its advantage, since it combines a butt augmentation with a “tummy tuck”.
The harvested fat is then centrifuged (spun at high speed to separate its components) and the separated fat is treated to eliminate any damaged cells. The processed fat is then placed in a syringe. When the patient re-visits the doctor for treatment, the area to be to be injected will be numbed with an anesthetic and the fat is injected at the site(s) with a small syringe.
Since fat is more dense that other injectable materials, the doctor will inject it deeper into the tissues. Fat is also the first choice of material for larger injected volumes (more than 10cc). This makes it a good choice for butt and breast augmentations.
Recovery details are directly associated with the procedure that is performed. For facial procedures, some redness, itching and mild swelling can be expected for the first couple of days. There will usually be some puffiness since the doctor will overfill the injected area to allow for some fat absorption. This is normal. The extent of the procedure and amount of fat injected will also influence recovery time.
For Butt and Breast Augmentations, the recovery scenarios are different. (See: Butt Lift, Breast Augmentation). Before your procedure, ask your doctor about a reasonable estimate regarding recovery time.
Risks Associated With Fat Injections
There are few risks associated with fat transfer injections, since the material is harvested from the patient’s own body – eliminating the risk of rejection. However, there may be some risks associated with the use of anesthetic in the procedure. This is rare, however, as is the development of a fat embolism, discoloration, bleeding and distortion due to overcorrection.
The two most significant risks are the reabsorbing of the fat back into the body and disappointment with the results. In the case where the body reabsorbs too much of the fat, an additional procedure(s) may be necessary. This occurrence cannot be predicted but there is a 50% chance that it will occur.
In the long term, the fat that is injected may not be a permanent solution as more than half the injected fat is absorbed within 6 months of the procedure. Some fat will be retained, however, but the exact results are unpredictable.
The cost for a facial fat injection ranges $1500 - $4000 and is dependent on the number of injections, the area(s) that will be injected (cheeks, lips, chin, etc.), the region where you live and the experience of the doctor. If another procedure is being done to your face, there is usually a discount applied to the injections.
Average cost of a Brazilian Butt Lift (which uses fat injections) is $2,000 – $10,000 and is influenced by factors such as the experience of the surgeon, anesthesia and facility fees. In some cases, the total cost (including all post-operative visits) can average $15,000 - $20,000. However, financing is usually available.
Fat transfer procedures for hand contouring average around $1500 while the total cost for breast augmentations that utilize fat transfers average $5,000 - $10,000.
Alternatives to Fat Injections
There are alternatives to standard fat injections that can be discussed with your doctor. For example, a newer fat transfer method available is called LipoStructure®. The premise of this technique is that by keeping the extracted fat cells alive, reabsorbing into the body will be hindered – allowing for longer lasting results. Be aware, though, that this is a new procedure, costs significantly more and requires that the surgeon receive specific training in this technique.
Other materials, besides harvested fat, can also be used for injections. Some of these are; Botox™, Alloderm™, Restylane™ and collagen. A discussion with your doctor can determine which filler is best for your particular procedure. For facial (and other) procedures, alternatives to fat injections or other filler injections can be microdermabrasion, chemical peels or laser skin resurfacing. Unlike filler injections, these techniques won’t restore volume – but can address wrinkles blemishes and other imperfections. These techniques can also be used in conjunction with filler injections.
Things to Discuss with Your Surgeon During Your Consultation
During your consultation with your cosmetic surgeon, you should discuss a variety of issues pertaining to your procedure options, prior to making your decision. These issues can include items that relate to realistic expectations and specific questions regarding which procedure options are right for you.
Questions directly related to the procedure might include;
- Where will the procedure be performed (is it accredited?) and how long will the procedure take?
- What are the doctor’s credentials for performing the procedure (how many procedures of this type have been performed?)
- Am I a good candidate for fat harvesting and injection?
- What are my anesthesia options? What will the recovery process be like and what possible risks or complications can I expect?
- What is the percentage of this office’s patients that have experienced complications?
- Can the doctor provide patient references?
- Are numerous before and after photos available for viewing? Is there a policy in place for needed procedural corrections?
Other issues that are associated with fat injection procedures revolve around associated costs. You should get a cost figure that includes the surgeon’s fee, anesthesia, facility fees, follow up visits and all miscellaneous costs. If necessary, you may also want to inquire about financing.