With ageing of the face comes volume loss – “hollowing”. Fat can now be removed and processed from your thighs, stomach or arms (liposculpture) and carefully placed back into your face to restore a more youthful appearance – Autologous Fat Transfer.
This minimally invasive “face-lift” requires no stitches and minimal time off from your usual routine. It has a natural rejuvenating effect without the need to resort to regular injection of “Fillers”. I perform this procedure regularly in my NHS role for people who have lost facial volume through medical reasons as part of their rehabilitative surgery. This is important when you are considering who will perform your surgery.
To read an article in Brighton’s The Argus which has further details, please click here. Published January 15th 2015.
The procedure is performed under general anaesthesia (fully asleep) with you able to return home the same day. No facial stitches are required and bruising is uncommon. Swelling usually takes a couple of weeks to recover, but most people are able to return to their usual activities within a matter of days. A dissolvable stitch and a faint scar/mark remains from the sites where fat was removed from.
How it is done?
Fat transfer is performed to treat hollows in the periocular region (around eyelids) and face. Autologous fat transfer (using your own fat) is performed in the operating room, usually under general anaesthesia. This is usually done as a day case. Fat is usually taken from the abdomen or inner/outer thigh (donor areas). A small skin incision (cut) is made on the skin and the fat is harvested using a syringe. This skin incision is closed with a dissolving suture. The harvested fat is then injected under the skin around the eyelids and face, through small skin incisions. These skin incisions are small and do not usually require any stitches.
What are the risks?
- Swelling and bruising (common for a few weeks but rarely lasts more than two months)
- Contour abnormalities: lumps and bulges (fairly common but they usually become smoother with time and massage to the area)
- Visible fat deposits (uncommon)
- Undercorrection/overcorrection (undercorrection is more common since a third of the fat disappears over the first few years).
- Fat migration: movement of the transferred fat to other, unintended areas (uncommon)
- Infection (rare)
- Vision loss, nerve injury and death have all been reported as extremely rare events (but never in Mr Litwin’s care to date).
In addition to the risks specific to the individual procedure, there are also general risks, such as blood loss, infection, cardiac arrest, airway problems and blood clots, which are associated with any surgical procedure. Local anaesthetic may cause bruising or possible allergic responses. If your operation is to be carried out under general anaesthetic, the anaesthetist will discuss these risks with you.
What are the benefits?
- The technique of autologous fat transfer is used to restore a more natural appearance to the face and region around the eye.
- Most people have fat to spare and will not experience an allergic reaction to their own fat.
- Fat also lasts longer and is less likely to be reabsorbed by the body than many artificial fillers, giving a longer-term solution.
- Autologous fat has been established as a stable filler in both facial reconstructive procedures and aesthetic surgery.
What are the alternatives?
- Filler products (synthetic materials)
- Face lifting procedures
- Removal of redundant or excess skin
- After the procedure, you will be asked to sleep with your head slightly elevated (with pillows). Apply cool-packs over the treated area and the donor area.
- A short course of oral antibiotics or ointment to apply over the skin incision sites may be prescribed, but is not usually required.
- Most patients experience some bruising after the procedure and you should expect significant disfiguring swelling in the first week that decreases substantially by the end of the second week.
- You should be able to return to your normal social activities by the end of the second week following the procedure.
- Some swelling and fat loss will occur up to 12 weeks and then stabilize.
- In the longer-term you may experience continued improvement in skin tone and texture even beyond 12 months.
For further information visit the Department of Health archive: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130107105354/http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_4138410.pdf and see the entry on Fat Transfer.