Specializing in facial plastic surgery and natural looking results

Facial Fat Transfer San Francisco

Fat Transfer

Fat transfer, also known as fat grafting, or fat injection is a procedure where a patient’s own living fat is removed from one part of the body and used to treat another part of the body.  In our practice, fat is borrowed most commonly from the thighs, processed for refinement, and then transferred to where it is needed in the face. At Union Square Facial Plastic Surgery, we use fat to treat the following issues:

1. Age-related volume loss.

As we get older, we lose facial volume. Volume losses are due to both soft tissue loss and bony loss. Studies comparing radiology scans of a person in their 20s versus a person in their 60s show widened eyesockets, thinner cheekbones and jawbones in the 60-year-old.  With decreased collagen turnover, thinning skin and atrophy of the deeper tissues, people begin to look hollower with age. Add a slender or athletic body habitus to the picture, and the person can very soon look gaunt.

2. Genetic facial volume loss in younger patients.

Younger patients in their 20s and 30s can also begin to experience early volume loss. Some other young patients have always had very flat cheekbones and are looking to achieve a more attractive cheek contour.  These patients often come into the office complaining of tired looking eyes even after a good nights rest.

3. Volume defects due to injury or natural facial asymmetry.

In these cases, fat is used to correct defects caused by previous surgery, trauma, or native asymmetry.

Why fat?

Fat transfer works so well because you are – simply stated – replacing fat with fat. It is natural, it is your own, and it is permanent. Since it is a living tissue graft, it obtains a new blood supply in its new location in the same way that a hair graft or skin graft would. Once this process of neovascularization is complete, the fat cells begin to thrive in their new environment. This process can take several months.  We generally find that the surviving cells are established by three months.  At that point, the fat is integrated into its new environment and resumes the natural behavior of normal fat.

What type of anesthesia is used for Fat Transfer?

In our practice, the majority of our fat transfer cases are performed comfortably using local anesthesia in the office. We have found that most patients prefer this over general anesthesia. We also offer general anesthesia or IV sedation in an accredited and certified outpatient surgery center for those who prefer deeper levels of sleep.

Recovery from Fat Transfer

The first 1-2 days are typically spent with the patient taking it easy at home.  The swelling peaks at Day 3, then gradually subsides thereafter.  Bruising and swelling may last for several days and most patients can return to work by 5-7 days.  Depending on the patient’s job, some may return to work even sooner.