Tucson Fat Transfer Surgery Information, Benefits and Risks

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What are fat transfers?

Fat transfer, also called fat grafting, is a surgical procedure that removes fat from one area of the body and moves it to another area to increase fullness and restore lost volume.

When are fat transfers used?

Fat transfers work well in conjunction with a facelift. As people age, they lose fat from areas of the face, thus giving them an older appearance. The areas where the best results are typically seen are the nasal labial folds (folds around the mouth), marionette lines (lines by the corners of the mouth), cheeks and lips. Fat transfers can also be used for a buttock lift or to correct contour irregularities of the breast after breast cancer reconstruction.

What is involved at a consultation for fat transfers?

When you come in for your initial consultation, you will meet with both Dr. Maloney and Lindsay, the clinical coordinator. Maloney Plastic Surgery is one of the only practices in Tucson, Arizona to offer VECTRA 3D (three-dimensional) technology to our patients. One of the first things we will do at your consultation is use VECTRA imaging technology to take a 3D image of your face or buttocks depending on where we are doing the fat transfers. The exciting part about the VECTRA technology is we can perform “fat transfers” on the 3D image and show you how the operation will look on your face or on your buttocks in 3D! You will also be given a user number so you can access your saved images from home to review with your friends and loved ones if you choose. We are excited and proud to offer this amazing technology to our patients. After VECTRA imaging, Dr. Maloney will examine you to determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure. He will discuss the different areas fat can be injected. Dr. Maloney will determine if your operation can be done in the office or if it needs to be done at the surgery center. This will depend on the amount of fat we need to remove and the number of areas we are transferring the fat to. He will discuss details of the operation, show you before and after photos and answer any questions you may have. Lindsay will then review surgical fees, financing options and answer additional questions. If you choose to have surgery, you will return for another consultation about two weeks prior to your operation. At this second appointment Dr. Maloney will review the surgical plan with you as well as go through consent forms, review your VECTRA pre-operative photographs and give you your prescriptions. Lindsay will go over all of your surgical instructions and give you a packet of information so when you leave this appointment you are ready for surgery.

How do I prepare for fat transfers?

Once you have met with Dr. Maloney and chosen a surgical date for your fat transfers, you should plan for your care and recovery after the operation. You will need to arrange a ride to and from the surgery center the day of surgery as well as arrange for someone to stay with you for the first 24 hours. You should take three days to three weeks off of work for this operation depending on the type of work you do (speak to Lindsay, Dr. Maloney’s Clinical Coordinator, for additional information). If your employer requires paperwork for your time off, please obtain it ahead of time and bring it to our office. If you smoke, you must quit a minimum of two weeks before surgery. We suggest six to eight weeks, but two weeks is the minimum. Smokers heal slower and can have wound healing problems. Smoking will decrease the chances of transferred fat gaining blood supply and therefore the surgical plan may require adjustments. If you take aspirin or other medication that causes bleeding, you should stop taking it three weeks before surgery as it causes increased bleeding and thus more bruising. If you take any diet pills (prescription or over-the-counter) or Metformin (a common diabetes medication), you should stop one week prior to surgery to avoid anesthesia risks. All medications, herbs, vitamins and dietary supplements you are taking should be carefully reviewed with Dr. Maloney prior to surgery. If you are under the care of a physician for any health issues, we may require surgical clearance from your physician and/or cardiologist.

At your pre-operative consultation with Dr. Maloney you will be given a map to the surgery center and your prescriptions. Have these prescriptions filled before surgery so they are at home when you need them. Also pick up some bags of frozen peas or corn to use as icepacks after your procedure. Sleep with your head elevated for the first few days to keep swelling and bruising to a minimum. Stay hydrated and have plenty of water or sports drinks around the house. Consider mixing sports drink and water 50/50. You should also take a stool softener as narcotic pain medication and anesthesia may make you constipated.

If you are having surgery at the surgery center

The morning of surgery you cannot have anything to eat or drink after midnight. This includes water. Do not put any lotions, deodorant or make-up on the day of surgery. Do not wear any jewelry to the surgery center. You should wear comfortable clothes that are easy to get on and off. A shirt that zips or buttons up the front is preferable, as are loose workout pants or sweat pants. Bring your photo ID when you check-in to the surgery center. You will then be taken back to the pre-operating area where Dr. Maloney will come and discuss the plan again, answer any additional questions you have, and mark the surgical site. You will also meet the anesthesiologist and ask him/her any additional questions you may have.

If your procedure is in the office

Take your prescribed pain medication one hour before the operation. Wear comfortable clothes that are easy to get on and off. Upon arrival, you will be taken to the procedure room where Dr. Maloney will mark the surgical site and make final preparations for surgery.

How are fat transfers performed?

The operation takes between 1-2 hours depending on how much fat needs to be removed and transferred. At the surgery center, the anesthesiologist will put you to sleep for your safety and comfort. In the office, local sedation is used. Dr. Maloney will inject a tumescent fluid (lidocaine, saline and epinephrine) and perform “low suction” liposuction to harvest the fat. The fat will then be put in a centrifuge and separated from the fluid and oils. Once the fat has been separated, Dr. Maloney will numb the areas he is going to inject. Using specially designed cannulas, he will begin injecting the fat into the areas that have lost volume. Dissolvable sutures are then used to close the incision. You will wake up in the recovery room and be ready to go home in about an hour (in the office you will be released more quickly since you were not put under).

What should I expect after fat transfers?

There will be a small dressing over the area where the fat was harvested. It is normal to ooze fluid from the incisions. You should rest and eat a healthy diet high in protein for successful healing. You should also avoid alcohol and refrain from smoking. All surgeons recommend early and frequent ambulation after surgery to reduce the risk of blood clot formation in the legs and to speed up recovery time. You may be stiff and sore when you first get up and walk around. The more you are up walking around the better you will feel. You will be swollen after surgery as we always overcorrect the area, knowing a portion of the fat will be absorbed. Any bruising can last a few weeks. It takes about three weeks to see results, so be patient during the recovery process. You may remove your dressings and shower 1-3 days after surgery, depending on what the office tells you. Return to the office for your first post-operative exam 1-3 days after surgery. A low-grade fever is not uncommon after any operation. If you have any questions during the recovery phase, please do not hesitate to call the office any time, day or night.

What are the benefits of fat transfers?

After the procedure the areas that have lost volume due to aging will be corrected.

What are the risks of fat transfers?

Fat transfers have both aesthetic and health risks, and it is the patient’s personal decision whether the benefits outweigh those risks. The most common risk is the need to have the procedure repeated because the body absorbs the fat. This happens in about 10% of patients. Other risks include scars, bleeding, infection, asymmetry, excessive firmness or changes in skin sensation. There are also uncommon, but more complicated risks such as deep vein thrombosis. For a full list of risks, go to plasticsurgery.org.