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Fat injection (also known as autologous fat transplantation or microlipoinjection) involves extracting fat cells from the patient's abdomen, thighs, buttocks or elsewhere and re-injecting them beneath the facial skin. Fat is most often used to fill in "sunken" cheeks or laugh lines between the nose and mouth, to correct skin depressions or indentations, to minimize forehead wrinkles and to enhance the lips.
The Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery offers fat injections.
After both the donor and recipient sites are cleansed and treated with local anesthesia, the fat is withdrawn using a syringe with a large-bore needle or a cannula (the same instrument used in liposuction) attached to a suction device. The fat is then prepared and injected into the recipient site with a needle. Sometimes an adhesive bandage is applied over the injection site.
As with collagen, overfilling is necessary to allow for fat absorption in the weeks following treatment. When fat is used to fill sunken cheeks or to correct areas on the face other than lines, this over-correction of newly injected fat may temporarily make the face appear abnormally puffed or swollen.
If a larger area is treated, you may be advised to curtail your activity for a brief time. However, many patients are able to resume normal activity immediately. You can expect some swelling, bruising or redness in both the donor and recipient sites. The severity of these symptoms depends upon the size and location of the treated area. You should stay out of the sun until the redness and bruising subsides (usually about 48 hours). In the meantime, you may use makeup with sunblock protection to help conceal your condition. The swelling and puffiness in the recipient site may last several weeks, especially if a large area was filled.
The duration of the fat injections varies significantly from patient to patient. Though some patients have reported results lasting a year or more, the majority of patients find that at least half of the injected fullness disappears within three to six months. Therefore, repeated injections may be necessary. Your doctor will advise you on how to maintain your results with repeat treatments.
Risks Related to Injectables
When injectables are administered by a qualified plastic surgeon, complications are infrequent and usually minor in nature. Still, individuals vary greatly in their anatomy, physical reactions and healing abilities. The outcome of treatment with injectables is never completely predictable.
Allergic reaction is not a factor for fat because it is harvested from a patient's own body. However, there is still a small risk of infection and other infrequent complications.