What are Fat Injections?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Fat injections are also sometimes called microlipoinjection, or fat transplantation. It is an elective, cosmetic medical procedure that involves removing excess fat from one area of the body and injecting it into another area. The main goal of it is not to get rid of excess fat, but rather to use the body’s own fat to 'plump up' sunken or creased skin. This is different from similar procedures, which use other forms of injectable fillers, such as collagen or hyaluronic acid.

Fat injections may be used to enlarge thin lips.
Fat injections may be used to enlarge thin lips.

These cosmetic procedures may be used by those seeking enhancements to their appearance. Some patients use fat injections to enlarge thin lips. Others use them to improve the appearance of wrinkles or other creases in the skin. Patients who have sunken scars may have fat injections to diminish the appearance of the scars.

Fat cells are sucked from one area of the body and injected elsewhere in a cosmetic procedure.
Fat cells are sucked from one area of the body and injected elsewhere in a cosmetic procedure.

Fat injections are a simple cosmetic procedure. The patient should consider the results to be more of a touch-up than an actual cosmetic surgery, which can drastically alter the appearance of physical features. If the patient desires more extensive physical change, she should consider another procedure, such as a face lift.

Not all patients are good candidates for receiving fat injections. The ideal candidate is considered to be someone who does not smoke and is in good general health. Age is not typically considered to be a factor. The candidate will need to have excess fat on her body that is available for harvesting. She should also have realistic expectations regarding the probable results.

The procedure itself typically takes between 30 to 90 minutes. Local anesthesia will be applied with a needle. This will numb at least two areas on the body — the area of fat removal and the location of fat injection. Patients may choose to receive fat injections in more than one location. Fat can typically be removed from the thighs, stomach, or buttocks.

Once the areas are numb, the surgeon will use a vacuum device connected to a syringe that suctions out fat cells. After processing and purifying this fat, the surgeon will then inject it into the target areas. The patient can go home after the procedure, and typically will not need to stay in a hospital for recovery.

Fat injections require a very short recovery time. Patients often resume their normal activities on the same day of the procedure. Bruising is often experienced, and swelling may persist for several weeks. Within the first two days, the affected areas may have a red appearance, sometimes with minor scabbing.

Patients should follow their surgeon’s post-procedure care instructions. They will likely be advised to avoid strong sunlight. Ice can be applied to the areas to reduce swelling. Patients who experience persistent pain or other abnormal symptoms should contact their surgeon.

Possible risks and complications from this procedure are typically minimal. The fat is harvested from the patient’s own body, so there is no risk of the body rejecting the transplant. As with any procedure, there is always a risk of infection and scarring. Skin irritation or sensitivity may also occur.

Fat injections are a temporary solution. The patient’s body will gradually reabsorb the fat and the patient’s physical features will revert back to their pre-procedural appearance. Patients may choose to seek additional treatments later. The durability of the results vary depending on the individual, however the results may diminish within three to six months.

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