Facial wrinkles and creases are part of the aging process. They begin to appear as the underlying collagen and elastin fibers break down and wear out. While this breakdown is part of the natural aging process, it can also result from excessive squinting, frowning and smiling.
Injectable fillers and fat cells taken from your own body are the two most frequently used methods for filling facial wrinkles and frown lines.
While injectable fillers can smooth out wrinkles, they aren't for everyone. Some patients are allergic to bovine collagen or may develop an allergic reaction over time. If you are considering filler injections to correct the early signs of aging, you may need to have a simple skin test prior to your treatment.
Dr. Dennis Ward performs fat transfer, also called autologous fat transplantation or micro-lipoinjection, for patients in our region to plump up facial features with a patient's own fat. It is a popular alternative to other wrinkle treatments. Fat transfer to the face is a safe, natural, non-allergenic procedure designed to recontour your face and can provide definition to your cheeks and chin. It can also be used to correct facial deformities. Since fat transfer uses your own fat cells, you can never have an allergic reaction, because it's from your own body.
With fat transfer it is possible to have fat liposuctioned from your thighs and then transferred to any area of your body. Reinjected fat lasts longer in larger areas of non-movement, so it is very successful for the correction of sunken cheeks because this area does not move as often. Fat transfer can also correct atrophic aging of the hands and post-surgical and post-traumatic defects. But not every area of the body responds well to fat transfer. The breasts for instance, are out. Injecting fat into the breast makes it much more difficult to detect breast cancer with mammograms.
How is the procedure done?
Fat transfer is performed in our office on an outpatient basis. Both the area from which the fat is taken and the treatment site are anesthetized with a local anesthetic. Using a small needle attached to a syringe, fat is removed from a donor site where your fat is most tightly packed, such as your abdomen or your buttocks.
Once removed, your fat is processed to remove excess fluids and then reinjected using another needle, which is placed just under your skin beneath the wrinkle. This process may be repeated until the desired correction has been achieved.
Harvesting the fat cells for reinjection is often performed in conjunction with other procedures, such as liposuction, tummy tuck or cosmetic breast surgery. When fat is harvested during another procedure, it is often possible for Dr. Ward to harvest a larger amount of fat, then freeze and store your fat for future injections when they become necessary.
What are the benefits of fat transfer?
- Fat transferred to the face can last as long as three years.
- Fat transfer can be very cost effective when combined with another procedure.
- There's no chance of an allergic reaction.
What can I expect after my fat transfer?
After Dr. Ward performs a fat transfer, patients are up and around immediately. Any discomfort following the procedure can be controlled with medication. Some swelling at the treatment site may last up to 36 hours. There may be some bruising, which can be covered with make-up. Your initial injection should last up to 6 months. For results that will last years, patients usually receive 3 - 4 treatments over a 6 month period.