Does Injectable Fat Grafting Really Work?

Q: I have read about using my own fat as an injectable filler. This seems like a perfectly natural, and if I must say, an obvious thing to do to build up certain body areas. Is it not widely done however and several plastic surgeons that I have talked to either don’t do it or seem uncomfortable or unfamiliar with it. Is this because it doesn’t work well or is there something unsafe about it?

A:  The concept of injectable fat grafting is in a state of development or evolution. Liposuction makes for an easy way to harvest an injectable natural material but its survival or retention after injection has been the issue. Using the fat suctioned from the body, technologies exist and are being developed to process the fat and extract and concentrate either the fat and/or the stem cells which naturally occur there. The concentrated fat with or without stem cell concentrate is then injected into the desired areas of the body or face.

Currently, more marketing than science exists about injectable fat grafting. Unfortunately, some surgeons actually tout that they have developed such a procedure and have ‘proprietary or special’ methods of their own to prepare an injectable fat concentrate. Multiple uses are being done from to facial or hand fillers. I have even read from some surgeon’s websites that their procedure ‘not only removes fat you don’t want, but it replaces it and changes multiple areas of your body, making for a more full-body change.’

 The good news is that injecting your fat poses no harmful effects other than it may not work well. The less than good news is that some are claiming benefits that have yet to scientifically substantiated or proven. Injectable fat grafts holds great promise and, for small volume areas like the face and hands, does seem to be significantly retained. Good success has also been seen in the buttocks although multiple grafting sessions may be needed to get the best size result. Other areas, such as the breast, are purely investigational for now and are far from a replacement for implant augmentation.

Dr. Barry Eppley