The transfer of fat from one part of the body, where there is a relative excess, to a part of the body where there is a defect, has appealed to both patients and surgeons alike for many years. Nonetheless, until recently, fat transfer has been largely unsuccessful, due to failure of the transplanted fat to acquire an adequate blood supply to survive.
The modern technique of Structural Fat Grafting or Liposculpture (also called multilayer fat transfer and micro-fat grafting) owes much to the work of Sydney Coleman from New York (and is therefore sometimes referred to as Coleman Liposculpture). The technique is founded on the principle that the fat cells must be harvested in a careful way to avoid fat cell damage, and then reinjected in multiple small quantities of fat at the new site. In order to build up the new area these small ‘parcels’ of fat are injected in multiple layers of criss-crossed tunnels, in such a way that each small parcel of fat is able to acquire new nourishing blood vessels, and so survive.
The fat is harvested by gentle liposuction techniques, and is usually taken from the lower abdomen (tummy), thighs or bottom. Following separation of the fat cells from other tissue fluids, either by natural separation or using a centrifuge, the fat cells are re-injected into the chosen area using specially designed blunt needles. Not all the fat cells will survive but it is generally felt that about 70% will do so. More than one procedure may therefore be required to achieve the desired contour.
Structural Fat Grafting has found a valuable role in both aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, due to the ability to ‘fill-out’ both small and large volume deficiencies. Larger volume defects will require several procedures, each time building upon the previous layers.
In aesthetic surgery, Structural Fat Grafting has a valuable role in improving facial contours, in particular in augmenting the lips and cheeks. It can however be used in many body sites, and can be used in conjunction with liposuction, in such a way that the body can be ‘sculpted’ by removing fat in one area and adding it elsewhere.
How long will I need to stay in hospital?
Although some people will prefer to stay overnight after surgery, many patients are able to go home the same day as surgery after liposculpture. Injections of other fillers can be done as an outpatient procedure.
How long does it take to recover from liposculpture surgery?
Although there is some minor discomfort after liposculpture, it is not usually painful. There may be some bruising and swelling of the donor and recipient sites. This has most often settled by two weeks when it should be possible to return to work and start seeing the results.
How long does my own fat transfer last?
The fat cells that successfully survive the fat grafting process will remain forever. Mr Kirkpatrick will be able to guide you as to what you may expect to be achieved.