Besides wrinkling and gravity, volume loss to the face has become increasingly recognized as an important component to the aging process, which can be restored with either office-based fillers or facial fat grafting. Fat grafting, through a gentle hand-harvesting method, purification process, and microdroplet injection technique, has shown to improve durability compared with older techniques that could compromise transplanted fat longevity.
BEFORE & AFTER
A metaphor can help people understand the role of fat grafting: when we are young we are a full, ripe grape and as we become older we deflate into a raisin. The question then is why should we cut and pull the raisin into a pea, when we should think about reinflating it back into a grape. Clearly, fat grafting is not a treatment for all aging, just the part that involves loss of volume.
Volume loss is particularly more pronounced around the eyes, cheeks, and jawline, where fat grafting can play the greatest role in creating a balanced and comprehensive rejuvenation strategy for the face that may include blepharoplasty (cosmetic eyelid surgery) and/or a facelift. Fat grafting involves removing fat from one’s own abdomen or thighs to put into certain regions of the face that start to lose fat. Only tiny amounts of fat are removed so this should not be equated with liposuction. Using blunt cannulas (which are 1 mm hollow tubes with a blunt end and a small hole through which the fat comes out) the fat is injected as little droplets throughout the areas of facial hollowness. By using this microdroplet technique, grafted fat has a much higher blood supply so that survival is improved and the results are smoother given how small each individual fat parcel is.
To understand the role of fat grafting, we have to evaluate the general shape of a face as it matures. Oftentimes, when we look at a face we can immediately perceive the age of someone without even seeing wrinkles or gravity. Why is this? It has a lot to do with overall facial shape. A child, no matter how thin, tends to have a round face. That roundness is attributed to the abundance of baby fat that tends to stay until one’s late twenties.
Many women actually like the shape of their face better in their early 30s because they have lost a lot of their baby fat and start to have more of a triangular heart shaped face. As one continues to age the loss of fat in the eyes, cheeks and jawline, including some weight gain in the lower face, neck, and jowls starts to invert the triangle so that the base of the triangle is now at the bottom of the face. Conceptually, the goal of facial fat grafting is to invert the triangle so that the heart shaped face of youth returns.
Volume restoration for the face also adds more light to the face, which in turn can make the skin look more radiant. Adding fat back to the face can even begin to help the skin texture and tone through what is thought to be a stem-cell response that the skin undergoes over areas of transplanted fat. This phenomenon is only speculated and is not conclusive but can be evident towards a year following fat grafting.
Fat grafting also appeals to many prospective patients, as it is minimally invasive and does not require any traditional facial incisions. With a global perspective on the aging process, fat grafting has assumed a more prominent role in our ability to combat the signs of aging.
The articles linked to this website are provided for general consumer education by the authors. Those authors are responsible for the content of the articles. The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is not. Patients should, in any event, base medical decisions only on a relationship with an individual surgeon licensed to provide assistance in that state. Patients must not base medical decisions on the articles linked to this website. The articles do not provide medical advice.
POST SURGERY INSTRUCTIONS
- After getting home, continue resting comfortably for the next 24 hours with your head elevated. Sleep on your back with 3 to 4 pillows behind your head and back for the next 3 nights after surgery. This will help decrease facial edema (swelling).
- To help decrease the amount of facial swelling and bruising, as well as to provide comfort, apply ice cold compresses to the site/s for the first 24 hours after surgery.
- If you experience pain, please take your prescribed pain medication as directed. This medication should be taken with food to prevent nausea. A simple pain killer may be taken in the place of your prescription.
- If you were discharged with an oral antibiotic take it through its full cycle as directed.
- If you were on the Vita Medica supplement plan you may resume after getting home. No other medication should be taken for the first 10 days after surgery. Avoid alcohol while taking any medications.
- Call your doctors office immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms: Temperature above 101.8°F, shakes and chills, severe unrelieved pain, or sudden onset of significant swelling or redness from grafted sites.
- Drink only clear liquids for the first 12 hours following your surgery. The day after surgery, you may eat soft foods. You may eat anything starting on the 5th day after your surgery.
- After the first 24 hours, you will be able to remove band aids and wash your face gently with a mild soap (Dove, etc.) and gently pat dry with a soft clean towel. You may shower 24 hours after surgery.
- You may brush your teeth gently 24 hours after surgery. Mouthwash may also be used with care.
- You can expect edema (swelling) as well as ecchymosis (bruising) around your face after surgery. The amount of edema and ecchymosis depends on the extent of surgery as well as the individual’s tendency to bruise.
- Avoid bending over or lifting heavy objects for the first week.
- After surgery your face will have a tendency to be hypersensitive to sunlight, causing an increasing tendency to burn. Use sun block with a minimum of 15 SPF to protect your face from burning, especially the surgical sites.
- Be aware that smoking or the use of unauthorized medications can lead to complications and jeopardize the results of your surgery.