Since the beginning of civilization, people have tried in various ways to improve their appearance. Down through the ages, disfigurement of the skin has been particularly distressful for many people. Today, because of modern technology, there are several excellent procedures available to correct skin defects such as deep furrows and wrinkles on the face. Depressions on other areas of the body can also be corrected through one such procedure called autologous (from the same individual) fat transplantation. This procedure, which is sometimes called “fat transfer,” is currently being used to recontour the face, enhance the cheek and chin, and correct facial or body deformities.
Prior to surgery, a complete medical history is taken in order to evaluate the general health of the patient. A careful examination is also conducted. The physician describes the type of anesthesia to be used, the procedure, what results might realistically be expected and possible risks and complications. Photographs may be taken before and after surgery to determine the amount of improvement. Preoperative instructions may include the elimination of certain drugs which contain aspirin in order to minimize the possibility of excess bleeding. Antibiotics may be prescribed for a few days before surgery to prevent infection. The areas to be worked on are carefully marked.
Fat transplantation can be performed in a physicians office, an outpatient surgical facility or a hospital depending on the physician’s and patient’s preference. Medication to relax the patient may be administered prior to surgery. Both the donor site (area from which fat is taken) and the recipient site (area to be treated) are anesthetized. A needle attached to a syringe is inserted into the donor site in a location which has a thick layer of fat such as the thigh or buttocks. (Fig. A) Fat cells, which are aspirated or drawn into the syringe, (Fig. B) are carefully reinjected into the recipient site. The process is repeated until the desired amount of fat has been transferred and the defect corrected. A pressure bandage is applied to the donor site and sometimes to the recipient site to prevent blood clots and swelling.
There is minimal pain connected with the procedure and any discomfort is controlled with oral medication. Antibiotics may be prescribed in order to prevent infection. Patients are up and around the day of surgery; however, strenuous activities should be avoided for some time. The physician determines when normal activities can be resumed based on the extent of surgery, and the patient’s healing process.
Although complications are rare, there are certain inherent risks connected with every surgical procedure which should be thoroughly discussed with the physician.
Problems of rejection or allergic reactions are not factors, because the fat is transplanted within the same body. Scarring from injections is minimal, because they are made within the natural creases of the body whenever possible. Patients can minimize complications by carefully following directions given by the physician.
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