During the aging process, we lose much of the youthful fullness in our face leading to a tired, sunken look. Today, the new thinking in plastic surgery is to replace this lost volume in the face, rather than pull it tighter. Oftentimes, the good option is to use a dermal filler material (Restylane® or Radiesse®) if the area to be addressed is relatively small, such as the lips or smile lines. In cases where a more significant amount of volume enhancement or replacement is required, fat transfer is a better way to achieve the desired result. Fat transfer, also referred to as autologous fat graft, fat augmentation or fat injection, is a procedure which involves the use of a patient’s own natural fat to treat unwanted wrinkles and creases or to provide additional volume to the face.
Fat Transfer Candidates
Good candidates for fat transfer include men and women who are physically healthy, have realistic expectations, and are interested in improving the contour of the face by diminishing lines and/or adding fullness. Areas commonly treated with fat transfer include the lower eyelids, cheeks, nasolabial folds, and the jawline.
The Fat Transfer Procedure
Most fat transfer procedures are performed in a surgeon’s office-based facility and typically involve local anesthesia on the donor and recipient sites. Some patients may also be given oral sedation. The procedure usually takes less than an hour to complete and is associated with only mild postoperative discomfort. Many patients elect to have fat transfer performed as an adjunct to a more invasive surgery. In this case, the procedures may be performed together in an outpatient surgery setting with deep sedation or general anesthesia.
During a fat transfer procedure, Dr. Hilinski will begin by harvesting fat through a small incision made at the predetermined donor area using a hand-held liposuction device with narrow cannulas that is specifically engineered to allow for gentler removal of fat.1 The fat is then cleansed and concentrated, after which it is injected into the desired area. In those seeking a natural alternative for treating deep facial wrinkles or simply adding volume to the face, this is an excellent option. There is minimal swelling and rarely any significant bruising. Most patients can return to normal daily activities within a short period of time following the procedure.
Chin Augmentation with Fat Transfer
Fat transfer is a great alternative for those patients looking to augment their chin with an implant. Although chin implants are still used quite regularly – and provide excellent cosmetic results – fat is a wonderful option to consider as well. Fat transfer chin augmentation has the advantage of being able to correct for inherent asymmetries around the chin (which chin implants cannot do). Plus, fat transfer chin augmentation provides a significant long-term cosmetic improvement using your own body’s tissue.
Planning Your Fat Transfer Procedure*
Average Cost: $5,000
Average Procedure Time: 2.5 hours
Average Recovery Time: 7 – 10 days
Post-Op Consultation: 3 months
*Procedure pricing and results with Dr. Hilinski may vary. Your personalized treatment plan and pricing will be determined at your consultation appointment.
Fat Transfer FAQs
Q – What is fat transfer?
Fat transfer, sometimes referred to as fat injection, fat augmentation or autologous fat transfer, is an in-office procedure that harvests a patient’s own fat and then uses it to fill unwanted facial folds and/or wrinkles, and add facial volume and contour. Fat transfer is generally indicated to treat the jawline, lower eyelids, cheeks, and nasolabial folds, also known as “laugh” or “smile lines”.
Q – Who is a good candidate for fat transfer?
Good candidates for fat transfer are men and women in good general health who have realistic expectations, and are looking to improve the contour of the face. Typically, individuals with a normal, healthy body weight have better results with fat transfer than those who are excessively thin, as these people with more robust fat cells are more likely to provide the desired volume enhancement when transferred elsewhere on the body and/or face.
Q – Where is the fat transfer procedure performed?
Fat transfer procedures are performed by Dr. Hilinski in his state-of-the-art office. However, many patients elect to have fat transfer done as an adjunct to more invasive surgery performed in the outpatient surgery setting.
Q – What type of anesthesia is used for fat transfer?
Typically, Dr. Hilinski uses local anesthesia in conjunction with oral sedation for fat transfer procedures performed in-office. If the fat transfer is being performed in the operating room, with additional to more invasive surgical procedures, Dr. Hilinski will use deep sedation or general anesthesia.
Q – Where are the incisions located for fat transfer?
Incisions associated with fat transfer are generally located on the abdomen, hips, butt, or thighs. Dr. Hilinski will create several small incisions on the harvest site, and use liposuction to remove fat. This fat will then be injected into the face according to each patient’s unique treatment plan.
Q – How long does the fat transfer procedure take to perform?
Fat transfer typically takes between one and two hours depending on how much fat is required to harvest and place to achieve the desired results.
Q – Is fat transfer a painful procedure?
There is minimal pain or discomfort associated with the fat transfer procedure, and for most patients it can be managed with OTC medication.2
Q – What is the recovery like after the fat transfer procedure?
Most patients experience minimal bruising and swelling at the treatment site(s) in the three to five days following their fat transfer treatment. We recommend that patients perform a gentle circular massage to help blend the newly placed fat into surrounding tissue to smooth results. However, excess pressure may cause too much dispersion of the fat, so patients should take caution. Dr. Hilinski will schedule a follow-up appointment one week after a fat transfer procedure to ensure optimal healing. Patients generally see the final results of a fat transfer treatment in two-to-three months. If after three months additional volume is desired, Dr. Hilinski may recommend an additional fat transfer procedure.
Q – When are the stitches removed after the fat transfer procedure?
Dr. Hilinski will remove the stitches placed at the harvest site within one week following a fat transfer procedure.
Q – When will I be able to return to work after undergoing fat transfer?
Patients can expect to return to work within three to five days after a fat transfer procedure.
Q – When will I be able to exercise after my fat transfer procedure?
Patients can resume regularly scheduled activities and exercise in approximately two weeks following a fat transfer procedure.
Q – Are there risks or complications with fat transfer?
All surgery carries some risk, however, fat transfer is considered a safe procedure.3 In rare cases, patients experience lumping of the fat at the transfer site which is generally due to the body’s healing process and not a reflection of surgical technique. If this occurs, Dr. Hilinski may recommend a gentle, circular massage to help smooth the contour or depending on severity, steroid injections and/or lipodissolve injections can provide additional benefit.
Q – Does insurance cover the fat transfer procedure?
No. Fat transfer is generally performed for cosmetic purposes and these are not typically covered by insurance.
Read more about fat transfer procedures.
1 Amy L. Strong, Ph.D., M.P.H., Paul S. Cederna, M.D., J. Peter Rubin, M.D., Sydney R. Coleman, M.D., and Benjamin Levi, M.D. The Current State of Fat Grafting: A Review of Harvesting, Processing, and Injection Techniques. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 2015 Oct; 136(4): 897–912. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4833505/. Accessed on July 7, 2020.
2 Francesco Simonacci, Nicolò Bertozzi, Michele Pio Grieco, Eugenio Grignaffini, and Edoardo Raposio. Procedure, applications, and outcomes of autologous fat grafting. Annals of Medicine and Surgery. 2017 Aug; 20: 49–60. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5491488/. Accessed July 7, 2020.
3 Todor K Krastev, Jip Beugels, Juliette Hommes, Andrzej Piatkowski, Irene Mathijssen, Rene van der Hulst.
Efficacy and Safety of Autologous Fat Transfer in Facial Reconstructive Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery. 2018 Sep 1;20(5):351-360. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29596574/. Accessed July 7, 2020.
Dr. John Hilinski has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.