Every patient is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to any facial rejuvenation technique. In order to fully comprehend a fat grafting procedure, it may be helpful to discuss aspects of the face as it matures. Aging can become immediately apparent even without the presence of wrinkles. Facial balance is the key to perception and we are all programmed to notice even the smallest imbalance. Symmetry is often dictated by fatty deposits in the face and these deposits add volume to the cheeks, forehead and other areas. This volume is generally attributed to the plenitude of baby fat that contributes to facial features until a person reaches their late twenties.
There are many factors that contribute to the aging process including skin aberrations, such as wrinkling, and a sunken appearance due to volume loss. Volume loss has become widely recognized as an important component of facial aging and can be restored with either synthetic transdermal fillers or a technique known as fat grafting.
Volume can be specifically pronounced around the eyes, cheeks, and jaw line. In these areas, fat grafting can play an important role in creating a balanced facial rejuvenation approach. Basically, volume loss that leads to defined facial aging must be replaced with some kind of filling substance. Transferring fat cells from the patient’s own body offers many advantages over injecting synthetic material in order to increase facial volume. The donor sites for a fat grafting procedure usually include locations that collect fatty deposits such as the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks. Once the site is selected, fat is removed and subsequently transferred into certain areas of the face that have suffered a loss of volume. Using one-millimeter hollow tubes, called cannulas, the fat is injected as tiny drops into the areas of the face that have lost the most volume. Once it is deposited, the surgeon then expertly reshapes the fat to smooth and plump the patient’s facial features in order to achieve a more youthful appearance.
The transfer itself is accomplished through a three step process: harvesting the fat from the donor site, sanitizing the material, and then using micro-droplet injections. This three step process has shown effective durability as compared to other older techniques and has demonstrated a track record of long-lasting results. The fat graft should be performed by a board certified plastic surgeon that has been specifically trained in these complex procedures. Not only should the surgeon be medically trained, but should also have a highly-developed sense of aesthetics. Surgeons work in very precise tolerances and even millimeters are important to maintain facial balance.
The process takes approximately two hours and is usually performed either in the surgeon’s office or a surgical clinic. While a local anesthetic is required, additional sedation may be administered to further relax especially anxious patients. Additional plastic surgery procedures such as laser skin resurfacing may be performed on patients located in the Philadelphia area in conjunction with a volume augmenting fat grafting technique in order to maximize the total results.
Recovery from a fat graft is relatively straightforward and involves very little post-operative pain. Most patients require rest; any discomfort can be well managed by over-the-counter pain medication. Patients will be provided a very specific set of post-operative instructions and will be counseled to follow them carefully. The use of autologous fat from the patient’s body instead of synthetic filler to achieve facial balance mitigates the risk of rejection or reaction and has helped millions of people look and feel years younger.