Before & Afters
Doctors Edward Buckingham and Erin Smith offer Fat Transfer solutions for patients in Austin & Sunset Valley, TX. Aging of the face is commonly caused by three elements: laxity of skin tissues caused by gravity, skin changes such as wrinkles and pigmentation caused by age and years of sun exposure, and the loss of facial volume that once created youthful curvature. That loss of volume hastens the look of aging and can prematurely date a person due to facial hollows. These areas are commonly observed under the eyes, below the cheekbones, and around the mouth, but also occur along the jawline, temples, brow and forehead.
To correct a fatigued and often emaciated or harsh look, a plastic surgeon trained in facial aesthetics works to restore youth to the face. The face can appear dramatically younger by restoring volume to the under eye area, treating local wrinkles, creating a soft transition between the lower eyelid and the full heart-shaped cheek region, and filling the deep grooves around the mouth. Dr. Buckingham of Buckingham Center for Facial Plastic Surgery is an Austin, Texas-based practitioner who expertly performs facial fat transfer for patients.
How is Facial Fat Transfer Performed?
Areas of the body for fat harvesting may be marked out. The patient is then provided a combination of a local anesthetic and sedation (Oral or light IV sedation). In cases of full facial fat transfer, it may be more advantageous to use IV sedation to ensure optimal fat removal and operative comfort.
Sometimes referred to as microlipoinjection, autologous fat grafting, or fat injections, the procedure begins with lipoharvesting to areas of excess fat on the patient’s body. This process is performed through the use of a cannula, requiring only minimal incisions to access the tissue. While male and female bodies store bulk differently, the doctor is typically able to harvest this adipose tissue from the abdomen or hips. The fat may then be processed using rinsing, centrifuge or in Dr. Buckingham’s case the more sophisticated Puregraft system by Cytori. The Puregraft filter allows more reliable filtering of the unwanted components of the harvested fat. The doctor will then use a smaller cannula to reintroduce the fat to the patient’s facial areas in need.
Facial fat transfer is performed on an outpatient basis. However, patients will not be able to drive themselves home to recover from the procedure; a family member or friend can aid with this. Prior to the procedure, the doctor will provide any necessary prescriptions that can be filled before the surgery, and patients are encouraged to set up a comfortable recovery area. Pre-made meals, clean and comfortable bedding, and activities to cure boredom can all be set up before a patient undergoes the procedure.
Advantages to Autologous Facial Fat Transfer
There are a number of reasons and benefits of Fat Transfer that makes patients may choose to utilize their own fat for a facial rejuvenation. Dermal fillers and implants may be options for certain patients, while others have sensitivities or allergies to the synthetic materials. Because the body recognizes its own tissues, there is no chance that it will reject the replaced fat. In addition to the increased measure of safety, autologous fat contains growth factors, which can affect the growth factor of the surrounding area, contributing to healthier and more youthful tissue growth. While further processing of fat can isolate adipocyte derived growth factors, studies have not shown this to be superior to fat transfer utilizing the fat cell mixed with the growth factors. The growth factors that are already suspended in the fat mixture are reintroduced under the skin of the face without the added special treatment.
Because fat is a naturally existing tissue, it can create a natural texture and look that does not interfere with the patient’s facial movements, which is possible if implants are too large or become displaced. The fat does not move or shift as it becomes incorporated as living area tissue. It may also provide longevity of results, sometimes providing long-lasting volume restoration. Because the fat is injected into the skin, there are no facial incisions and only minimal surgical cuts to allow the small cannula (hollow blunt tube the size of the end of a pen) to suction fat from the body.
While fat transfer can provide outstanding youthful, natural results it does carry the downside that there can be variable survival of the grafted cells and the results can be suboptimal and it does create 1-2 weeks of significant swelling limiting return to social activity.
As previously mentioned, the face ages by gravity, skin changes and volume loss. If a patient’s main concern is overall aging of the face, facial fat transfer can be performed alongside a facelift, together are successful for comprehensive anti-aging, blepharoplasty and skin resurfacing, depending on the individual’s needs.
Dr. Buckingham has found that in areas with a loss of volume and wrinkles, fat injections can address both issues; however, when the patient seeks to fill existing lines but is not concerned about re-plumping the general area of the face, dermal injections may be a better solution. JUVÉDERM® and Restylane® can fill grooves in the skin and BOTOX® (which is not a filler, but a neurotoxin) can prevent the lines from forming while the face is at rest and during minimized facial movements.
Recovery from Facial Fat Transfer
Patients can return home after the surgery for postsurgical care. There may be some noticeable bruising and swelling, but there is no need for post-operative dressings or drains. In most cases, the patient can return to social activities 2-3 weeks after the procedure depending on how much is performed. Strenuous activity can begin after 2 weeks with full activity at 3 weeks. It takes 3 months to determine how much of the fat that was grafted, the graft survival or take. If necessary, additional fat or facial fillers can be added in the future.
The Consultation – Determining Candidates for Facial Fat Transfer
To determine if a patient is a good candidate for facial fat transfer, Dr. Buckingham recommends a private patient consultation at his Austin, TX practice, Buckingham Center for Facial Plastic Surgery. This allows the patient to meet the staff, form a patient-doctor relationship, and hopefully begin the transformation process.
During this appointment, Dr. Buckingham will assess a prospective patient’s face to determine which single or combination procedure plan may be the best treatment for the intended results. He will also determine which harvest sites should be utilized during the fat removal process. During this initial meeting, the patient has the opportunity express any concerns and ask questions about the procedure.
Dr. Buckingham will assess the patient’s overall health, paying special attention to any chronic health issues or current medications. He may also inquire about previous procedures the patient has undergone, for both health and cosmetic purposes. Men and women are equally eligible for the procedure, and Dr. Buckingham can tailor individual results to retain feminine and masculine characteristics as desired. The results of the procedure will be discussed, and any patients that Dr. Buckingham takes on should have a good understanding of the facial fat transfer process and have realistic expectations for the changes it can provide. If it is determined that fat injections are not the ideal approach, the doctor may suggest alternate options, of which there are many.
Commonly, healthy patients with aged faces that appear drawn or hollow, especially under the eyes and in the cheeks, may be good candidates for autologous fat transfer. The aged lower eyelid can create a sharp line of demarcation between the lower eyelid and cheek referred to as a tear trough. Those seeking to restore volume and vitality to the face may find that this procedure addresses most or all of their cosmetic concerns.
Dr. Buckingham may follow up with tissue scans or request lab work and tests to maximize patient safety during this procedure.
Frequently Asked Questions about Facial Fat Transfer
What is facial fat transfer?
Who is the best candidate for facial fat transfer?
Are there any limitations to what facial fat transfer can achieve?
How is the actual facial fat transfer procedure performed?
How long does the actual facial fat transfer procedure last?
Is the facial fat transfer procedure painful?
How long do the results of facial fat transfer last?
Where is the facial fat transfer procedure performed?
What is the recovery like after facial fat transfer?
What type of anesthesia is used for facial fat transfer?
How much time will I need to take off from work after undergoing facial fat transfer?
Schedule a Consultation
The first step to undergoing a facial makeover with Dr. Edward D. Buckingham or Dr. Erin J. Smith is to schedule a consultation with their at his Austin practice, Buckingham Center for Facial Plastic Surgery. The skilled Dr. Buckingham is double board certified by The American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and The American Board of Otolaryngology. He is an expert in facial plastics and offers facial fat transfer to qualifying patients. Dr. Erin Smith is a Beverly Hills trained Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon who specializes in both cosmetic and reconstructive procedures.
Contact Dr. Buckingham or Dr. Smith by email through the Patient Contact Form, or by phone at 512-401-2500.