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Fat Transfer Risks and Benefits


As is the case with all cosmetic treatments, fat transfer carries risks (however slight) along with benefits. The benefits of fat transfer via injection are well established; these include correcting facial imperfections and adding volume with a non-allergenic, autologous material (i.e., from the patient's own body). It's important to consider the risks and benefits of fat transfer before electing to undergo this procedure. The benefits are reviewed below, followed by a detailed description of the possible risks and complications of fat transfer.

Benefits of Facial Fat Transfer

Fat injection as a cosmetic treatment is natural, versatile, long-lasting, and safe. Fat transfer has become a preferred method of facial volume enhancement for patients who are allergic to traditional dermal fillers such as bovine-derived collagen. One of the biggest benefits of volume enhancement via fat injection is that there is absolutely no chance of an adverse allergic reaction.

Traditional collagen injections are derived from bovine tissue, so patients must undergo an allergy test and wait for the results before undergoing treatment. Even more modern facial rejuvenation products, such as those that use hyaluronic acid, carry a slight risk of reaction in people who have multiple allergies. Many patients feel most secure using fat transfer so they don’t have to worry about a possible reaction.

Another popular reason for choosing fat transfer/injection is the duration of the procedure’s results. Even though about 65 percent of injected fat will be reabsorbed into the body within a few months of the fat injection, the remaining 35 percent will usually last for years. For the most lasting results, many patients choose to have several fat transfer treatments over the course of a few months.

Fat transfer is easily combined with other facial rejuvenation procedures such as BOTOX® Cosmetic, or a body procedure such as abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) or liposuction. Many patients find that undergoing facial fat transfer in addition to one of these procedures is more cost-effective than undergoing these treatments separately.

Fat Transfer Risks and Possible Complications

Fat transfer risks are few, rare, and minimal. Soreness and swelling are possible, but they're not experienced by every patient. The most significant down-side of the procedure is that your face or lips may simply reabsorb all or most of the fat injection. The chances of this happening can't be predicted for a given individual, but it happens in up to half of all patients who receive fat injection treatments.

Rare but possible fat transfer risks and complications include an allergic reaction to the local anesthetic, permanent discoloration caused by a ruptured blood vessel at the treatment site, calcification, a distorted look if overcorrection is done, peri-operative bleeding, a blood clot at the treatment or donor site, a blood-borne infection (perhaps from another cosmetic or dental procedure), scar tissue, and a fat embolism caused by a fat injection mistakenly directed into a blood vessel.

Being disappointed with the results of a fat transfer procedure could also be considered a "risk." The placement of the fat transfer may not be adequate; the duration of the effect of the fat injection may not be as long as you'd like; or your face may not "take" the fat transfer. Your face or lips may not look exactly as you'd hoped. Discuss all your concerns and desires with a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist before undergoing a fat transfer procedure.

Find a Physician Who Performs Fat Transfer

You can use the DocShop directory to find an experienced dermatologist near you who performs fat transfer/ fat injection procedures. Be sure to ask about the risks and benefits of fat transfer.

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