Increasingly, fat is being used to augment soft tissues in the face. These include both the upper and lower lips, cheek prominences and also to fill out depressions such as in the cheek fold area. There has been some controversy as to whether fat augmentation gives long term results, but current evidence suggests that at least 40% of the transplanted fat will survive in its new position.
How is it done?
Fat augmentation is usually performed under local anaesthesia, unless it is used in combination with other more major procedures which require a general anaesthetic. Fat is simply harvested from an area of the body, such as the tummy or the buttock, where there is often a bit of excess fat. The fat is very gently collected and then spun down and decanted ready for injection. Using a very fine cannula, the fat is introduced into the areas to be augmented. The augmentation is usually overdone initially to allow for both post operative swelling to subside and also for a certain amount of the fat transferred to atrophy or melt away.
What are the risks?
There are few potential risks from the procedure. These include sometimes quite dramatic swelling in the initial week or two after the operation and sometimes some overlying skin inflammation. More long term complications include some residual lumpiness on occasions. This nearly always settles with time. The important point about fat augmentation, is that it may need to be repeated if an inadequate number of fat cells survive the transplantation process.
Fat or artificial fillers?
The obvious advantage of autologous fat is that there is unlikely to be any tissue reaction as it comes from your own body tissues, and hence it is unlikely to be rejected, or become infected. If successful, it is also likely to give a more permanent result than injecting with artificial fillers. However, it does require a procedure in hospital.
Artificial injectable fillers are increasingly in vogue. Only temporary semi-permanent films, such as hyaluronic acid or hydroxyappetite are used in the practise. The long term safety of permanent fillers available on the market has not been validated at this point in time. Check out our FAQs for more information.