Fat grafting is a surgical procedure that involves harvesting fat cells from one part of the body and injecting them into another part. The fat is therefore used as a filler. Common donor sites are the abdomen, love handles and thighs. Common recipient sites are the face, breasts and buttocks.
When fat grafting is performed on the breasts, it becomes a form of breast augmentation. When is it performed on the buttocks, it is a form of buttock augmentation, also known as Brazilian Butt Augmentation (because it was popularized in Brazil).
The advantages of fat grafting are as follows:
- It involves using your own tissue.
- It is permanent.
The disadvantages are:
- It requires an operation with its attendant downtime.
- Only fifty to sixty percent of the fat injected survives, hence more than one procedure is usually required.
The fat is harvested from the identified donor sites using gentle liposuction technique, preferably without any prior treatment of the donor fat with any form of energy (e.g. ultrasound energy), which may damage the fat cells. The fat is then processed and purified before it is injected into the recipient tissue.
The amount of fat harvested and injected depends of the needs of the recipient site and the amount of available fat in donor areas. For the face, relatively small amounts of fat are required (less than 100 mls), whereas body recipient sites such as the breast or buttocks require much more fat (several hundred mls).
The incisions made for harvesting and injecting are typically very small (several mm) and are similar to liposuction incisions. The procedure can be done under local anesthesia, intravenous sedation or general anesthesia, depending on its magnitude. It is usually a day surgery procedure.
Pain is usually minor and well controlled with oral pain medications. Both donor and recipient areas will have some swelling and bruising. Downtime varies according to the nature and magnitude of the procedure, and ranges from a few days for breast and butt augmentation to around one week for facial fat grafting (due to exposure and visibility of the face). Stitches are usually removed after one week. Bruising usually subsides by two weeks. The majority of the swelling is usually gone by one month.
Overall, fat grafting is a safe procedure. Blood loss depends on the magnitude of the fat harvesting part of the procedure, but is usually minor. The risk of infection of the injected fat is low, but if it occurs, it can significantly reduce the amount of retained fat in the final result. Minor uneven contours in the donor sites occur occasionally.