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We have fat cells located everywhere on the body—but not always where it’s wanted for beautiful curves and contours.

Fat transfer is a relatively new technique that is growing in popularity each year, due to the beautiful, natural results it produces, and the multiple benefits the procedure offers. People who are dissatisfied with the volume and contour of the buttocks, face, hips, breasts, or abdomen can have their own fat transferred to these areas, improving the appearance of both areas in the process.

Fat transfer appeals to a wide audience, as the surgery itself is minimally invasive, and the procedure is versatile—it can be used to fill in lost volume in the face, enhance the size and shape of the buttocks, or smooth out depressions in the stomach or breasts caused by trauma or previous surgery. Common sites that are used to harvest the fat include the abdomen, thighs, and hips—they are considered "problem areas" for many people and often have plentiful pockets of fat. By harvesting from these areas, problem areas are diminished, and contour is improved

Once the fat has been harvested using liposuction techniques, it will be purified and prepared for the injection process. This gives the fat the best chances for survival, as some of the cells will be able to establish themselves in their new location and become permanent over time. The injection process is minimally invasive, and patients can look forward to beautiful, natural-looking results with minimal downtime.

Fat Transfer Consultation

If you are interested in improving the contour of your body with fat transfer, you’ll need to consult with one of our plastic surgeons to plan your procedure at our Atlanta, Georgia office. First, you will discuss your goals for surgery and determine whether these goals can be met with fat transfer surgery or another procedure. Our doctors will help you decide if fat transfer or another procedure will give you the results you’re looking for, as well as ensure you are a good candidate. You will be able to ask any questions you may have about the procedure and learn more about the surgery, recovery, risks, and results. Your fat transfer consultation is a valuable opportunity to get to know us and prepare for your surgery.

Fat Transfer Candidates

Though fat transfer is a fast-growing procedure that produces beautiful results and works well for many people, it is not the right option for everyone. Ideal fat transfer candidates are people who would like to add subtle, natural volume to one or more areas of the body or rejuvenate the aging face. Candidates for fat transfer must be in general good health for safety reasons. Patients must have enough fat to be used for the desired type of transfer—more for fat transfer to the buttocks or hips, less for fat transfer to the face. Prior liposuction can create scar tissue, limiting potential harvest sites. Patients should have realistic expectations for the procedure, and explore all available treatment options before making a decision.

Fat Transfer Procedure

The fat transfer procedure may be performed under a number of different anesthesia types (from local to general), depending on the number of areas to be treated, and the amount of fat to be transferred. Fat transfer is an outpatient procedure at our Atlanta, Georgia facility, and begins with liposuction, generally of the stomach, hips, or thighs. During the first part of the treatment, fat is gently removed from the harvest sites through small incisions and the areas contoured for a more aesthetically-pleasing silhouette.

Harvested fat is then gently strained and prepared for injection, with minimal handling or manipulation to help assure good graft survival. This purified fat is then injected into any of the following areas:

  • Buttocks, for improving volume and refining roundness and contour
  • Hips, for enhancing an hourglass figure
  • Face, for filling in wrinkles and restoring lost volume
  • Breasts or stomach, for smoothing out irregularities
  • Other areas, such as depressed scars from prior trauma

In some cases, the surgeon may overfill treated areas during the injection process. This is because some of the fat will fail to establish a blood supply and eventually die, being disposed of or absorbed by the body and reducing overall volume gained from the procedure. By overfilling the area, permanent volume will be more in line with patient expectations.

Fat Transfer Recovery

The only incisions involved with fat transfer are those caused by the liposuction surgery used for fat harvest. The fat injection process that follows is minimally invasive. Therefore, people often experience only a brief recovery period, getting back to normal activities quickly. Patients should expect to take about a week off to rest and heal following surgery. Bruising, swelling, and discomfort are normal side effects, but any pain can be controlled with medication, and should subside within a few days.

Results appear gradually over a period of months as swelling goes down and the grafted fat establishes itself in the treated areas. Patients can expect to see final results from the procedure after about 6 months.

Fat Transfer FAQs

  • Is transferred fat really permanent?

    Fat that manages to establish itself in the treated areas and survive after the procedure is considered permanent. This is typically true for the vast majority of the cells transferred during the treatment. However, since not all the fat injected will survive, the results are only considered permanent after about 6 months or so, when all of the fat that did not make it has been disposed of by the body. Therefore, patients will need to wait to see the final volume they can expect from the procedure.

  • How much volume can I get from a fat transfer?

    The amount of augmentation that can be achieved during fat transfer depends on the amount of volume desired, the site which is being treated, and the amount of fat available for transfer. You and your surgeon will discuss the amount of volume that can be expected from the available fat and tailor a treatment plan to suit your needs and your body.

  • Will my results change if I gain or lose weight?

    Fat cells expand or shrink during weight fluctuations, and the surviving cells transferred to the treated areas behave in the same way as other fat cells in the body. This means that grafted cells can expand if weight is gained, causing expansion in the treated areas. Harvest areas can also gain fat, but this generally happens at a slower rate, since there will be fewer fat cells remaining in the area. Patients will need to be diligent about maintaining a stable weight before and after fat transfer to preserve results.

  • Will liposuction during the procedure help me lose weight?

    Liposuction is not a treatment for obesity, and fat transfer is not an appropriate treatment for people who are not at a stable weight. Liposuction can accomplish spot fat reduction in problem areas that do not respond to diet and exercise, but the goal of the procedure is not weight loss as much as body contouring.

  • How big are the scars from fat transfer?

    While all surgical procedures involve some scarring, fat transfer offers great results with minimal scarring. Liposuction scars are fairly small and discreet and the tiny cannulas used for injecting the fat leave almost no scar whatsoever.

  • I’ve had liposuction before. Will that affect my ability to undergo fat transfer?

    Unfortunately, because prior surgery does produce scarring underneath the skin, areas that have been treated with liposuction in the past are not ideal harvest sites for fat transfer. Ideal fat for the procedure is soft and healthy, such as the excess fat often found in the abdomen. However, for patients who have had liposuction previously, it is often possible to use fat from other, untreated areas. Talk to our expert surgeons to see if you are a good candidate for the procedure.

  • What if I don’t have enough fat for transfer?

    Most patients have enough fat to get some increase in volume, however whether or not this will meet your goals depends on the area to be treated. Even if the amount transferred is less than desired, this can contribute to overall results. A great example can be seen in the buttock area, where reduction of the flank area above the buttocks with liposuction, and combined with some volume enhancement of the buttocks will give a more shapely contour.

  • How long will the procedure take?

    Because fat transfer is such a versatile procedure that can treat a number of different areas, surgical times vary. Procedures involving only small areas may take as little as an hour, while larger transfer procedures (such as buttock augmentation) can take up to 4 hours or more. It all depends on the specifics of your surgery, which your surgeon will discuss and plan with you.

  • What are the risks of fat transfer?

    All surgery carries some risk, and while fat transfer is a safe procedure, patients do need to be aware of the possible complications and risks of the surgery so they can be on the lookout for any problems. Some risks include:

    • Unusually low rate of fat survival
    • Poor aesthetic results/uneven results
    • Anesthesia risks
    • Bleeding
    • Fat embolism
    • Calcification

    Most risks of fat transfer are rare, and can be further minimized by choosing a talented plastic surgeon, like a member of our team at Emory Aesthetic Center.

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