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Facial Fat Transfer and Facial Implants

Facial Fat Transfer by Dr. AndersonWhile most people think that the most significant signs of aging are wrinkling and sagging skin, one of the major underlying causes of these problems is something else: facial volume loss. This loss of facial volume can lead to accentuation of the bony contours of the temples and around the eyes and can make the cheeks look flatter and less full. Only in the last decade has the impact of decreased facial volume on the appearance of aging become fully recognized.

Facial contour and definition are determined by genetics, which is why some people have prominent chins and cheekbones, while others have a rounder face with softer features. Whether the issue is related to aging or simply facial structure, there are ways to boost facial volume and improve the appearance of the face with facial fat transfer, facial implants, or dermal fillers.

Fat transfer is often known as fat grafting, and it is a natural, minimally invasive surgical procedure to move fat from an area of the body where it is plentiful, and transferring it to the face to restore lost volume. The fat is gently removed using modern liposuction techniques, and is then prepared for injection into the face. This produces a very natural appearance, and there is little risk of infection or rejection of the fat by the body. Common treatment areas include the nasolabial folds (between the nose and the lips), marionette lines (between the lips and chin), flattened cheeks, sagging jaws, and hollows under the eyes.

Facial implants are most often used to improve facial contour and volume in younger patients who would like more prominent cheekbones or chin. Small implants are surgically placed in the areas that need augmentation for permanent improvement of facial contour. This procedure is often combined with other facial surgeries, such as rhinoplasty, to improve overall balance.

Facial fillers are a non-surgical method for filling in wrinkles and hollows and introducing subtle volume to the aging face. These treatments are injectable and non-invasive, but the results are temporary. Some fillers encourage collagen production for longer-lasting results.

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Facial Fat Transfer and Implants Consultation

No matter what procedure you are considering for restoring volume to the face, you will need to discuss your goals for treatment in a consultation with one of our Emory cosmetic surgeons in Atlanta, GA. One of our highly trained staff members will assess your facial structure and aging progression and discuss your options for treatment, recommending a course of action to help you reach your goals. These consultations are extremely important for communicating what you want out of surgery, getting to know your surgeon, and asking any questions you may have about your prospective procedure or procedures.

Facial Fat Transfer and Implants Candidates 

There are different candidacy requirements for each procedure to restore facial volume, and your individual candidacy will be assessed during your consultation. Basic requirements for cosmetic surgery are that patients should be healthy individuals with realistic expectations who could benefit from the procedure. Facial fat transfer patients must have adequate fat to harvest and should be at a stable weight before undergoing treatment. Fillers are very low risk and the candidacy requirements for these treatments are not very demanding.

Facial Fat Transfer and Implants Procedure

Fat transfer is a fairly gentle procedure, but there are several steps to the process. First, liposuction techniques are used to remove fat from predetermined areas of the body, such as the stomach, hips, or thighs. This is done through tiny incisions that leave almost no scarring.

The fat that has been retrieved is then gently prepared for injection, using minimal manipulation. Fat is carefully injected into the lines, hollows, and depressions of the face to rejuvenate and recontour, using fine cannulas (tubes) placed through tiny incisions. The surgeon may overfill the treated areas somewhat to compensate for the percentage of fat cells that will not survive.

Facial implant surgery is fairly straightforward, and involves a simple incision in a discreet area near where the implant will be placed. The implant is inserted through this incision, and the surgeon will ensure that the implant(s) will not shift before closing the incision and completing the surgery.

Facial Fat Transfer and Implants Recovery

Fat transfer recovery time varies from patient to patient, but most people should arrange to take at least 7-10 days off from work and other social activities. Initial healing takes a few weeks, after which the swelling will gradually subside before the final results are apparent. Though the recovery period is fairly mild for fat transfer, patients should allow adequate time to heal properly.  Patients should see final results after about six months, though improvement should start to become apparent just a few days after surgery.

Facial implant recovery is also a fairly mild process that requires at least a week of downtime before returning to work and other everyday activities. Exercise will be limited for several weeks, and though the results should be apparent right away, swelling will interfere with seeing the final results of the procedure at first. Swelling should start to subside gradually, and should be fully resolved by about six months following the procedure.

In many cases fat transfer or implants will be combined with other surgical procedures. In these cases, the recovery time may be longer.

Video FAQs:

Facial Fat Transfer and Implants FAQs

Is fat transfer permanent?

During the fat transfer surgery, the surgeon will often overfill the face with some extra fat to compensate for the inevitability of the cells that will not survive the transfer and will be reabsorbed by the body. This leaves enough healthy cells to establish a blood supply and become permanent in the face. After about six months following surgery, the fat that remains should be relatively permanent, producing lasting improvement.

What are facial implants made of?

There are several types of facial implants that can be used, but the most common materials are silicone or Gore-Tex, which offer a natural appearance and a low rate of complications.

How long do dermal fillers last?

There are many different brands and types of fillers on the market, and each of these have different properties. Most fillers last about 6 months to 1 year, but there are also fillers that can sustain results for up to two years or more. The filler that is right for you will depend on a number of factors. You will be able to get personalized recommendations from our Emory cosmetic surgeons during your consultation.

Is fat transfer good for weight loss?

While the fat transfer procedure does involve some body contouring, this aspect of the surgery is not the focus of the process. Fat transfer is not good for weight loss, as not enough fat will be removed to make enough of a difference. Surgical fat removal is best for patients at a stable weight who want to resolve stubborn pockets of fat, in order to contour the body and ensure lasting results.

Are facial implants good for aging?

While facial implants can restore volume to the face, they are designed more for facial contouring than aging. Patients with facial aging are usually better served with fat transfer or facial fillers to restore lost volume, often combined with other procedures such as a facelift.

Can facial volume restoration fix sagging skin?

The goal of fat transfer, of course, is to restore the youth and contour of the aging face. Sagging skin is partially caused by facial volume loss, so restoring some of that volume with fat transfer can help with mild to moderate skin sagging. However, more extensive sagging skin may not tighten up enough following treatment, so patients with moderate to severe facial skin laxity should consider a more comprehensive anti-aging procedure instead, such as a facelift.

What will I look like after volume restoration?

Ideally, you will see yourself—just looking several years younger or with better facial contour. Fat transfer works best when it is used to restore youthful facial contours, not create new ones. Facial implants can affect facial balance and create significant improvement in the overall aesthetics of the face.

What are the risks of fat transfer?

Facial fat transfer complications are generally rare, as the procedure is gentle and safe. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are small risks involved, which may include:

  • Infection
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Fat calcification
  • Over or under correction (poor aesthetic result)

Be sure to go over the risks and side effects of the procedure during your consultation so you can be on the lookout for any potential complications. A talented surgeon and your own diligent pre- and post-operative care efforts will go a long way in preventing complications.

What happens if I gain or lose weight after fat transfer?

The transferred fat cells will continue to live in the area in which they were injected, establishing a blood supply and behaving like any other fat cell. This means that if a significant amount of weight is gained or lost, these cells could expand or shrink, affecting the overall results of the procedure. This is why patients are encouraged to be at a stable weight before the procedure, and maintain that weight following surgery, in order to preserve results.




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