Calf Augmentation with Fat Injections

Q: I’ve read your article on calf augmentation using fat transfer. Since 2008, have you performed this procedure? I have finding very mixed feedback on this. Some surgeons are saying this is high risk and will be unsuccessful because the fat will all be absorbed. Another doctor in NY I’ve been in contact with says he has had great success and with little side-effects. Appreciate your feedback.

A: Calf augmentation is most reliably done with implants. There are specific silicone rubber implants made for the calf and they are placed through a small incision on the back of the knee. (popliteal fossa) Because an implant is used, the result is stable and consistent in the amount of size increase obtained. Conversely, because it is an implant there are the associated issues of the risk of infection, malposition and asymmetry as well as a significant recovery and discomfort.

Fat injections, no matter where they are considered and what they me be used for, always have the same appeal. Using a natural tissue that has virtually none of the risks of an implant-associated procedure. Despite those benefits, fat injections have one significant downside…their volume retention is unreliable. At this time, there are no standard techniques for fat preparation and injection and the science behind its survival once transplanted remains to be discovered and utilized for more stable outcomes.

Because of the differing techniques and injection methods, fat injections for larger volume areas (breast, buttocks, calfs) have widely variable results. With these inconsistent results come quite discrepant surgical opinions about their effectiveness. There is now to reconcile one plastic surgeon’s experience vs another at this time.

Calf augmentation with fat injections is relatively ‘new’ and the worldwide experience is still evolving. The issues with the calfs are no different than the buttocks or breasts. It is a very safe procedure with minimal downtime. But one has to accept the reality that how much fat survives is the risk of the procedure. And more than one session may be needed to get the best results. (more likely than not) My experience has been with just a few cases and the early results have been acceptable. But the key is patient selection…don’t ask the fat to do what an implant can do better. (mild enlargement, not big enlargement)  

Dr. Barry Eppley