Fat transfer (medically, platelet injection fat transfer, also called fat injection or fat grafting) is a medical procedure that uses the patient’s own fat tissue to increase the volume of fat in the subcutaneous area of the body. Autologous adipose tissue transplantation has been used for breast augmentation for cosmetic reasons and after
breast cancer surgery.
Fat is withdrawn from the patient in one of three ways: with a syringe that has a large-bore needle or with a liposuction cannula. The fat is prepared according to the practitioner’s preferred method and then injected into the patient’s recipient site. The preparation process clears the donor fat of blood, pain killers and other unwanted ingredients that could cause infections or other undesirable side effects. Moreover, some physicians have found that human fat outside the body is incredibly delicate.
One researcher (Mendieta) found that, to obtain viable fat, the needle withdrawing the fat can’t be too narrow, the liposuction cannula can’t have too strong a vacuum pressure and the centrifuge used to clear debris from the donated tissue can’t spin too rapidly. Another researcher found that vacuum pressure on the liposuction machine could not be higher than 700 mm Hg. A few doctors excise, or cut, small strips of fat from the body and then place, rather than inject, the tissue in the recipient site, using additional small incisions. Other uses and applications continue to develop as surgeons work with, and learn more about, fat transfer. Some of the most current and developing applications include:
- Cheek and chin Implants
- Repair of inverted nipples
- Increasing the girth of the penis
Depending on the surgeon, the patient and several other factors, the body is reported to reabsorb anywhere from 20 to 95 percent of transferred fat. Due to the varying rates of absorption and the different lengths of time fat is reported remaining in the body, many physicians and other researchers worldwide since the 1980s have tracked success, safety and failure rates of fat transfer. In most applications, fat injections are laid down through several different layers of skin and muscle to provide a better chance for the fat cells to find a nearby blood supply. Because some fat is always absorbed, most physicians inject somewhere around 30 percent too much. Physicians have learned the best donor areas are found in:
- The lower stomach
- The inner thighs
- The inner knees