As we age, our skin looses much of its elasticity or rebound, and it begins to develop folds and wrinkles. The aged and damaged skin displays more lines because the elastin fibers break and lose their rebound tendencies. The aged skin thins and falls into folds according to its attachments to the muscles beneath. Within the profession of Plastic Surgery, there are several approaches to correct this problem of damaged skin. One solution involves removing the excess skin and essentially ‘tightening’ the skin as is accomplished in the face lifting procedure. Another approach to treating wrinkles is to fill them with injectable materials that ‘plump out’ the wrinkle, thereby making the wrinkle less visible.
There are numerous filler materials available today for injection into the aging face and most of them are manufactured substances, to which the body reacts and eventually metabolizes, or removes. One of the most exciting developments in the field of Cosmetic Surgery is the technique of fat grafting as a semi-permanent or even permanent transfer. When properly executed, transplanted fat can, not only fill defects, but, it has been noted to improve conditions of radiation damage, scar tissue contracture and chronic ulceration. The fat seems to be incorporated into the tissues and seems to repair or replace the surrounding damage. A recent observation of heart tissue regeneration after the injection of fat into the damaged muscle, was particularly encouraging.
It appears, after intensive study and experimentation, that the fat cells actually carry some adult stem-cell potential. Stem cells have received vast media attention with the use of fetal or embryonic tissue. However, adult cells also carry some ability to replicate; scientists have long realized that the use of ones own cells is a much more reliable process of replacement and repair. The challenge of how to encourage these adult cells to multiply and repair tissue damage has remained an obstacle. In careful analysis of cell-by-cell transfer of the fat, into skin, muscle or other tissues, it seems that these transferred fat cells take on the characteristics of their new environment. And when they survive, they grow into new skin, new muscle, or new tissues; they seem to replace the scar and the damage nearby. As exciting as this concept is for cosmetic surgery, imagine the possibilities for tissue repair in the chronic disease state.
The best candidate for fat grafting is one who has some excess fat in the thigh or abdomen. During the surgery, the fat is removed via liposuction, cleaned and under sterile conditions, placed into transfer devices. Using a small opening in the skin, the fat is carefully placed, droplet by droplet to ensure that the corresponding area, receiving this fat, has enough room to generate a nourishing environment. Thereby, survival of these cells is maximized and the results are nearly permanent.
Fat can be grafted under the skin in the face, body, limbs, scars and even defects in the skin. Fat has been successfully transferred to enhance the buttock contours and has been used to soften acne scars. In the female breast, fat has been used to enhance the size, but if the fat does not survive, it can confuse the mammogram readings in the future.
*Individual Results May Vary
Additional Facial Fat Grafting Resources
We are still learning new applications for fat transfer. If interested, please visit ourplastic surgery office for your complimentary consultation.