Are Implants Better Than Facial Fat Grafting?

Q: Dr. Eppley, I had jaw surgery just over a year ago and it left me with some irregularities. This led me to get chin and paranasal implants a month ago. While they have provided some improvement and there is still some swelling, they still have not completely solved the appearance of nasolabial folds and pre-jowls.

Facial fat Injection SitesI now suspect that this may be a soft-tissue problem. However, because I am only 25 years old such soft tissue deficiencies seem unusual. Anyway, I’ve googled facial fat grafting and this image really pinpoints the areas I would like to build up and bring forward (the direction of the arrows). My biggest questions are as follows:

1) Could my soft tissue issues have been caused by my previous underbite (thereby affecting soft tissue development) or the jaw surgery itself?

2) Given my age, can fat grafting be done for these regions? If so, how much volume of fat is usually required? 

3) Instead of fat grafting, are permanent fillers an option? Alternatively, are there any different implants that can be placed in these regions?

4) I have implants near these areas. Can fat grafting be done safely without infecting my implants?

Anyway, I also had some fat grafting done to my brow ridge and central forehead to make it look masculine. My surgeon did a decent job, but I’m noticing that insufficient fat was placed in the central forehead (the area between the two eyebrows and just above the nose), which means that my outer/lateral brow ridges are more augmented than the inner portion, causing it to look like I’m constantly frowning. I’m looking to add more fat to the central forehead, but I understand that a revision should only be done a few months later. Regarding this, I have a couple of questions:

5) It has only been 4 weeks since the fat grafting, can I use temporary fillers to augment the deficient areas in the meantime? 

6) If so, will fillers affect how my fat graft survives at this stage?

A: I am going to assume that your jaw surgery was orthognathic surgery, possibly a mandibular advancement osteotomy. But that issue aside, let me address your specific facial fat grafting questions.

  1. The cause of your nasolabial folds and prejowls is impossible for me to comment on since I don’t know what you looked before your jaw surgery or your most recent facial implant surgery.
  2. While injectable fat grafting can be done for these areas, how retentive it will be is somewhat dependent on your body habitus. Thin young people usually have a poor rate of fat graft survival and retention. The fat graft volumes needed for the nasolabial folds are 3 to 5ccs per side. The prejowls usually require a similar amount of injectate.
  3. There are few permanent fillers available in the U.S. and, even if there were more, I would not use them. All of the so-called permanent fillers run the risk of lump and nodules. While more often these do not occur, but if they do they are problematic to treat. Other styles of facial implants may indeed be more effective than what you have such as a true maxillary implant.  (combined medial and lateral maxillary coverage which is much ore comprehensive than a simple paranasal style which I find archaic and inadequate for many midfacial hypoplasia needs)
  4. Fat grafting is done above the level of the bone where the implants reside so they are not in danger of being accidentally injected.
  5. I would probably wait another month before placing synthetic fillers into the fat grafted areas. The fat grafts are still healing and there is an increased risk of causing an infection by introducing another material into these areas.
  6. At 8 weeks after fat grafting, injectable fillers will not have any adverse effects on the outcome of the fat grafting.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana