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Fat Transfer and Sculpting

There’s a great deal of enthusiasm for the array of injectable fillers available to plump up the lips and face.  While they all work quite well when appropriately placed, the most natural and compatible filler is your own body fat.  Dr. Sykes has extensive experience in using a patient’s own body fat to provide a natural, well-tolerated filler for lips, cheeks, chin, nasolabial folds, and other creases.  By removing a small volume of fat, refining it and placing it where needed, he can restore the youthful fullness time takes away.  Each body and various areas of the face handle fat injections differently, so results can last anywhere from a few months to up to three years before the fat is reabsorbed into the body. 

In your case
Facial fat loss is a normal part of the aging process.  In women whose weight is at or below normal, that loss of fat can lead to a drawn or gaunt look that can make physically fit women who are in excellent health look older than they feel.  If that is the case with you, fat transfer can provide an ideal, minimally invasive remedy.  When you come in for a consultation, Dr. Sykes will discuss the areas of concern you want to address.  If loss of facial fat has led to facial aging, he may suggest fat transfer alone or in tandem with an endoscopic forehead lift, eyelid rejuvenation, or other procedure that addresses the issues bothering you.  As with all procedures they perform, Dr. Sykes usees fat transfer to achieve a better balance of facial features, improved symmetry, and a refreshed, more youthful appearance.

What to expect
Because fat transfers are done under a light sedation, they are often combined with other procedures.  The procedure begins with the doctors removing fat through liposuction, often from your outer hip and thigh area.  They then purify the fat cells and reinsert them into the selected regions.  More fat than needed is placed, allowing for the body’s natural elimination process to remove the excess.  You will have sutures and can expect some bruising at the liposuction site, as well as some swelling where the fat is injected.  Since the removal site is out of view and swelling resolves fairly quickly, the procedure requires only a few days away from work. 

Once the swelling goes away, you will see a youthful fullness in the areas where fat is placed.  As mentioned earlier, bodies reabsorb fat at different rates, so the results may last from three month to three years.  Also, active areas of the face, such as the lips and forehead, will tend to eliminate fat faster than those areas not animated as frequently.  Touchups every couple of years may be necessary to maintain and improve the long-term effects. 

Fat Transfer Fast Facts
The following are general guidelines only.  Variations are common.

Surgery length:

1 to 2 hours


Office or hospital outpatient surgery suite


Light sedation, patient is asleep during surgery


Self-dissolving sutures and bandages where fat is removed, no dressings where fat is injected 

Pain & discomfort:

Mild discomfort at the fat removal site and slight discomfort caused mainly by swelling at the injection sites.  May or may not require pain medication.  Ice packs recommended to speed recovery at injection sites.   

Swelling & bruising:

Minor swelling and some bruising where fat is removed.  Moderate swelling and little to no bruising at the injection sites, with swelling resolving in three to four days.  Bruising at the removal site typically fades in 10 to 14 days.  

Suture removal:

Dissolvable sutures are commonly used, requiring no removal.

Return to work:

Within a week

Resume exercise:

Two weeks for gentle exercise, six weeks for strenuous exercise

Initial results:

Immediate, once swelling diminishes 

Final results:  

Within a few weeks


Three months to three years, depending on body physiology and fat placement areas.  Touchups typically recommended every couple of years.


Jonathan M. Sykes, MD, FACS
Professor/Director of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
UCDavis Medical Group
2521 Stockton Blvd., Suite 6206
Sacramento, CA 95817
(916) 734-2347
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