How do you solve a problem like volume loss? The truth is, there are a few cosmetic treatments that are designed to correct age-related loss of volume, such as dermal fillers. The only issue with these treatments is that the results aren’t exactly permanent. Fortunately, the skilled experts at ProMD Health in Baltimore, MD know about longer-lasting solutions, such as fat transfer.
What Happens During a Fat Transfer?
A fat transfer is essentially a minimally invasive procedure that involves moving unwanted fat from one area of the body to a different area of the body where more soft tissue is needed. Although fat transfers are usually performed to revitalize the appearance of your face for a more youthful visage, there are some procedure options that also help other areas of the body, such as the breasts or the buttocks, to create a more sculpted appearance.
So, what happens during a fat transfer? While the treatment itself is technically a very minor surgery, the steps of the treatment are much more simple than many people first assume. Each transfer treatment involves three main steps.
Step One: Consultation
Your first step is attending a consultation appointment that allows us to determine if this treatment is ideal for your aesthetic needs and goals. We will assess the main cause of your aesthetic concern, which is usually a loss of volume in the face or wrinkles; we will also assess the amount of body fat you have, as you will need to be able to donate an adequate amount for this treatment. If you meet all the requirements for this treatment, then we will get your appointment scheduled.
Should You Bring Reference Photos?
Depending on what your aesthetic goals are, it can be helpful to bring in reference photos to ensure that the communication between you and your provider is absolutely clear. For example, patients who are interested in contouring their appearance with this treatment may wish to bring in photos that indicate what you want your final results to look like.
On the other hand, for patients who simply want to look like a younger version of themselves, reference photos are sometimes still a good idea. It might be beneficial to bring in a photograph of yourself when you were younger so that your provider can have a clear understanding of what you want your restorative results to look like.
Step Two: Fat Graft
The second step of your treatment will be on the day of your appointment. Fat will be grafted from areas of your body that have an adequate amount of fat to donate, which is usually from the abdomen, hips, buttocks, or thighs. Once the fat has been removed via a small suction technique or liposuction, the fat will then be treated and purified to prepare for transferring the fat to your desired treatment locations.
Why These Areas?
The abdomen, hips, buttocks, and thighs have more adipose fat than any other area of the body, which means that they are generally ideal places to graft fat from, even for patients who are slimmer. Women tend to have a bit more body fat than men, so it may be easier for women to find areas of unwanted fat to use for fat grafting.
Step Three: Fat Placement
The prepared fat will be placed into a needle and will be injected into your targeted areas of treatment. This portion of the treatment strongly resembles a regular dermal filler treatment, with the exception of more comfort methods being taken. Usually, the fat placement happens on the same day as your fat grafting and can be done under local anesthesia.
When fat placement is done, we tend to prefer “overfilling” the treatment area. This is because some of the fat cells used in the transfer will die off or may not survive long enough to settle into their new placement. Overfilling ensures that there will be enough fat placed in your treatment areas to produce the desired results.
How Long Is Recovery?
Fortunately, the recovery time for this treatment is much shorter than other cosmetic procedures and actually closely resembles the recovery timeline of non-invasive cosmetic treatments, such as injectables. The most important portion of your recovery time will be the first week after your treatment, which is when you should have the most rest and time off work. During this time, you will need to follow a series of post-treatment instructions, such as:
- Avoid strenuous movement
- Do not be exposed to excessive heat or sweating
- Directions on how to care for treatment sites
- Instructions on how to sleep
- And more
When Can You See Results?
The results of your treatment will usually be visible within seven to 10 days, which is how long it will take for the initial swelling associated with your treatment to go down. Some patients may need to wait three to four weeks after their treatment appointment to see their desired results. Ultimately, how quickly you will see your results depends on how much fat was transferred and how long it takes for the transferred fat to settle into its new placement. You may have a follow-up appointment during this time to assess your recovery and your results.
How Long Do Results Last?
The results of this treatment are generally long-lasting. Most patients can expect the results of this treatment to last for years, sometimes more than a decade, which is why the results of the treatment are considered “permanent”. However, it’s important to remember that your original loss of facial volume was associated with aging, and that means the natural aging process may eventually decrease the results of your treatment over several years.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
1. How Should You Prepare for This Treatment?
Preparing for this treatment involves much of the same steps as preparing for any other cosmetic treatment, including liposuction. For example, because anesthesia may be used in your fat grafting and transfer, you may be instructed to fast the night before your treatment. You may also be instructed to not wear lotions, perfumes, or other products on the day of your appointment.
2. Will You Need Compression Garments During Recovery?
Depending on where fat has been grafted for your treatment, you may need to wear compression garments to ensure that your donor site heals in a natural-looking way. Compression garments will encourage the remaining fat in the donor site to heal and settle smoothly. Some patients may not need compression garments at all.
3. What Can This Treatment Be Used For?
A fat transfer treatment can be used to address a variety of appearance-related concerns, both on the face and the body. In fact, we primarily use this treatment to address wrinkles, skin laxity, hollow cheeks, frown lines, thin lips, and other issues related to a depletion of soft tissue caused by aging. The three main purposes of this treatment include:
As an anti-aging solution, this simple treatment can help restore volume to the face to fill in for lost volume. Part of the aging process involves decreasing the production of skin-supporting proteins like collagen and elastin, as well as some of the soft tissue (fat) in our skin depleting. By replacing this fat, we can restore a youthful appearance and fill in fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin.
This treatment can also be used to treat scarring on the skin, including shallow acne scars, deeper atrophic acne scarring, and scars caused by injury. Using this treatment to correct scarring is generally a good long-term option that will smooth the texture of your skin by targeting the areas of the skin where scarring has created divots.
This treatment is frequently used for contouring your appearance. Somewhat like a dermal filler, the injection of fat into the skin can enhance the shape of your cheekbones, fill in hollow areas of the face, and augment the shape of the jawline, chin, and lips. It’s very common to use this treatment to make a longer-lasting improvement to the shape and size of the lips.
4. How Safe Is This Treatment?
Fat grafting treatments have been used for over 100 years to correct soft tissue loss, although fat grafting as we know it today didn’t become a cosmetic option until the 1980s. Modern fat grafting is incredibly safe and precise, and because your own fat is being used to treat your cosmetic concerns, you will not have to worry about having an allergic reaction to a synthetic material.
5. Why Does Aging Affect Soft Tissue and Skin Volume?
Part of the aging process includes the natural break down of many of the substances that are present in the sub-dermal layers of our skin. For example, age-related volume loss is sometimes mostly attributed to less collagen within the skin; however, age-related volume loss can sometimes also be caused by a breakdown of fatty tissues beneath the skin, as well as muscle atrophy.
Depending on how and where you experience the most visible signs of aging, it’s likely that one or both of these depletions are causing the increase of skin laxity, fine lines, and wrinkles on your skin. Fortunately, fat grafting treatments can transfer enough fat to targeted areas to correct fat loss and fill in volume that has been lost by low collagen production.
6. Can This Treatment Help You Lose Weight?
No. Usually, the amount of fat that is removed with a grafting treatment is not significant enough to make you lose weight. In fact, the amount of fat that will be grafted is small enough that you may not necessarily notice a difference in your overall silhouette.
7. Who Are Good Candidates?
Good candidates for this treatment include those who would like to look younger and feel more confident. You are likely a good candidate if you have age-related volume loss and an adequate amount of body fat for fat grafting. You may also be a good candidate for this treatment if you have allergies to other cosmetic treatments, such as dermal fillers.
Look Like Your Best Self With Fat Transfer
The easiest way to solve any problem is to get to the root – and for age-related volume loss, the root of the problem is usually a depletion of the fat and collagen beneath the skin surface. If you want to restore your youthful appearance by correcting skin laxity, wrinkles, and facial hollowness, then a fat transfer treatment might be an ideal cosmetic treatment for you. Please contact ProMD Health in Baltimore, MD to schedule your initial appointment today.