Fat Grafting: St. Louis Doctors Explain an Advanced Cosmetic Surgery Technique

In St. Louis, the cosmetic surgery specialists at West County Plastic Surgeons of Washington University see a variety of patients with a variety of needs. In this Missouri city, women and men seeking a new look are the same as those throughout the country: They want that area to be smaller, while this area could use some more volume. An increasingly popular solution to both problems is fat grafting.

While dermal fillers and even implants have taken an ever-larger share of the spotlight—and certainly have their own benefits—fat grafting is a cosmetic surgery procedure with multiple established uses, as well as a body of researchers continuing to explore new and innovative applications.

But first: What is fat grafting? The procedure is used to take fat from a donor area somewhere it’s plentiful on a patient’s body, after which it is processed and injected elsewhere into the same patient.

The process is, of course, more involved than that. Specifically, the procedure starts with a consultation with a professional cosmetic surgery specialist to determine whether fat grafting is the best options for delivering a patient’s desired results. With fat grafting is identified as the right course, the patient can expect a procedure in two parts: removing the fat and re-introducing the fat.

For removal, the doctor will administer a solution into the donor area to make the tissue firmer (known as “tumescent”), a technique that reduces both pain and blood loss, leading to less bruising and faster recovery. Using a cannula, the doctor will then loosen and suction out the necessary fat cells, collecting them in a special container.

Note that though fat cells are being removed, liposuction is not intended as a strategy for weight loss.

The harvested fat cells will be spun in a centrifuge to separate them from other materials removed along with them during the liposuction procedure. Once isolated, the cells intended for fat grafting are moved into small syringes, ready for injection where desired.

Because these cells are a patient’s own fat, the body is more receptive to them than other foreign substances. The “familiarity” lowers risks of rejection and related complications and extends the life of aesthetic results, often by years.

Patients should know that the volume of fat to be injected at this point is significant, but not large. As a cosmetic surgery procedure, fat transferddd is best used for contouring and detail work. West County Plastic Surgeons of Washington University uses the technique to correct post-mastectomy contour deformities in breast cancer patients, other contour problems around the body due to trauma or surgery, and hollow or sunken areas on the face due to volume loss and shifting fat.

For instance, fat grafting can be used to fill in a divot left behind after the removal of a benign leg tumor. It can also restore a youthful roundness to the apple of the cheeks, which also tends to pull up the sagging tissue that causes jowls.

Fat grafting can also be used in augmentation for patients who want to change the size and contours of their buttocks.

Because the nature of a treatment depends on its scope, the amount of time a fat grafting cosmetic surgery procedure may take typically ranges anywhere from one to five hours. Similarly, recovery may be expected to take anywhere from two days to two weeks.

As for future applications, the West County Plastic Surgeons of Washington University team is working with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons to study and evaluate other cosmetic surgery-related uses for fat grafting, including breast augmentation, the reconstruction of an entire breast, and healing aids enriched by stem cells.

Note that liposuction can be performed as a standalone procedure, without the doctor harvesting the fat for later use. Any patient considering combining fat removal with fat grafting should be sure to discuss the idea during the consultation.

Contact the West County Plastic Surgeons of Washington University team to learn more about fat grafting and related cosmetic surgery options, including facelift. Call (314) 996-8800 or reach out online.

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