What is Fat Transfer?
Fat Transfer is a relatively new procedure that can offer patients an alternative to tradition breast implants. The procedure works by removing fat from a patients own body, processing it to remove impurities and concentrate fat cells, and re-injecting it into areas of the body where additional fat is desired.
Breast Fat Transfer is also known as Natural Breast Augmentation. Breast Fat Transfer is the process of harvesting fat from an area that you don’t like, and moving it to another area that you wished you had more; in this case, Innovations Medical moves fat from thighs and abdomens into the breast. Heres what the procedure is like:
- The patient comes in for a free consultation to determine if this is the correct procedure for her.
- The amount of fat needed to meet the patient’s goals is determined.
- An area/areas are chosen for liposuction.
- Dr. Johnson uses special techniques during liposuction for fat harvesting. These techniques include
- Collecting (harvesting) the fat in special containers to keep it sterile before processing
- Using smaller instruments than with standard liposuction to help preserve the fat
- Occasionally lower power suction is used. This can help preserve the fat
- After harvesting, the fat is processed and placed in syringes for reinjection.
- Special techniques (see How is the Fat Injected below) are then used to place the fat into the breast tissue.
- These techniques enhance fat cell survival and the shape of the breast.
How is the Fat Harvested?
At Innovations Medical, Dr. Johnson uses a form of liposuction known as Tumescent Liposuction. Tumescent liposuction is what makes it possible for the patient to stay awake during the procedure. The procedure involves a special type of local anesthetic called tumescent fluid. This fluid is pumped into fatty tissue areas to numb and prepare for harvest. The most common fat harvesting areas that Innovations Medical does are:
- Inner thighs and knees
- Outer thighs
- Abdomen and love handles
- Back of the arms
After the area is numb and ready, Dr. Johnson performs the liposuction procedure to harvest the correct amount of fat. At Innovations Medical, Smartlipo Laser Liposuction is also used at the end to get good skin tightening and texture post-harvest.
How is Fat Processed?
Once inside a sterile container:
- The fat is allowed to sit until fat is separated from the fluid. This is mainly the tumescent fluid that was pumped into the fatty tissue at the beginning.
- Most of the time Dr. Johnson wants the harvested fat centrifuged. This extra step is not always needed on fat transfer to the breast but it allows for more fluid to be removed and this does become important when dealing with SmartFat and PRP addition.
- Extra fluid present after centrifugation is drained.
- Any oil present outside of the fat cells is also drained.
- We prefer to add Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP (see What is PRP? below) to the fat at this stage. PRP enhances cell survival and final results.
- The fat is now placed in syringes for injection.
How is the Fat Injected?
The key to fat transfer is the fat cell survival rate. Over the years, new techniques and technology have allowed the fat transfer procedure to gain higher and higher fat cell survival. When the fat cells survive long term, the patients see long-lasting results. Some techniques available today that maximize fat cell survival include:
- Using special cannulas designed specifically for fat transfer
- On each pass of the cannula, injecting only a small amount of processed fat (typically 1 milliliter or less) Micro-Grafting\
- Injecting the fat into the correct layer of the tissue
These techniques have shown cell survival of 50-70%. When PRP, Platelet Rich Plasma, is added, it is estimated that survival of 90-95% can be achieved.