Lipofilling (also known as autologous fat transfer or fat grafting) is a technique whereby fat is taken from one part of your body and injected into another area. It can be very effective in improving the contour e.g. in breast surgery or refining the appearance of areas that have lost volume due to ageing, scarring or weight loss.The transferred fat develops a new blood supply in its new location over the first few weeks following surgery. A proportion of fat will be reabsorbed by your body during this period (on average 20% but up to 50% in some situations). The remainder will stay permanently. It will feel soft and usually gives a very natural feel and appearance to the area that it is transferred to.
Pre and post surgery clinical photographs of the treated areas will be taken. The fat is harvested via a liposuction-style technique. A narrow metal tube (suction cannula) attached to a suction pump or a syringe is inserted through the very small skin incisions and used to remove the required fat by moving it through the area to be treated under the skin. Ms Nugent injects a local anaesthetic and adrenaline solution beforehand to help reduce pain and bleeding. Then the fat is prepared for transfer in the operating theatre. Once ready, this fat is then carefully injected into the chosen area for lipofilling. Absorbable sutures may be used to close the incisions and you will then either be placed into a supportive dressing or garment as required.
Lipofilling can be carried out under local anaesthetic (while you are awake) or general anaesthetic (while you are asleep) depending on the extent of the surgery planned and your wishes. The surgery takes between 45 and 180 minutes depending on the volume of fat transfer planned.
Depending on the extent of surgery, you may be able to go home the same day or after 1 night in hospital. Lipofilling is usually a day case procedure.
Lipofilling is often combined with other procedures to give the best possible results for those procedures. Some common combinations include:
You will have bruising and swelling in the treated area and the area where fat was taken from afterwards which will peak at day 2 to 3 and slowly resolve over the weeks following this. Most of this will go over 4 to 6 weeks. You will have very small scars in the areas operated on and you often have some temporary numbness of the overlying skin. Some fluid may ooze from these wounds in the beginning.
You may be advised to wear a supportive or compression garment for 4 to 6 weeks postoperatively. This helps to provide support to the skin and to keep swelling controlled.
It is important to realise that at the area where fat has been injected, there will be some absorption of this fat as well. At about 6 weeks post surgery, there is usually a good indication of how much fat has remained and this generally lasts permanently. Plans for a second surgery if required are made following this assessment.
Most people return to work between 2 and 14 days depending on the extent of the lipofilling and the nature of their work. Light activities can be resumed within 2 weeks and normal activities are usually unrestricted after 4 weeks. Further restrictions may apply in some cases e.g. on sitting for lipofilling to the buttock area.
While most lipofilling surgeries go very smoothly and patients are delighted with the results, as with any procedure there are some risks associated with lipofilling – both to the donor site (where fat was taken from) and the recipient site (where the fat was transferred to).
Lipofilling surgery has a high success rate and is considered an excellent procedure for improving volume and/or contour. It does, however, often require more than one procedure to achieve the desired final result.
The natural ageing process of the body will continue regardless of surgery and so may over time alter your body shape. The transferred fat will age with the rest of your body as it always would have.