Fat Grafting Reverses The Deflation That Comes With Facial Aging

The recent tragic events that are ongoing in Libya actually have some plastic surgery implications. It was recently reported that a Brazilian plastic surgeon says he performed cosmetic surgery on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in 1995. This included harvesting fat from Gadhafi’s belly and injecting it into his face to smooth wrinkles as well as giving him hair plugs.

The plastic surgeon stated that while he really needed a facelift, he refused and wanted something that would have a less noticeable change. Gadhafi reportedly told him that he had been in power for 25 years at that time and that he did not want the young people of his nation to see him as an old man. (even dictators can be vain) Interestingly, the Libyan dictator insisted on using local anesthesia and interrupted surgery at one point to eat a hamburger.

While this story may be mildly amusing and seemingly ancient occurring over 15 years ago, it was an early use of a plastic surgery concept that has become very much in vogue today…that of facial fat grafting.

All faces age by loss of fat and the stretching of skin, gravity just compounds the problem by making it look worse in certain positions. By losing fat, the skin gets closer to the underlying bones of the face and sags as well. To ideally restore a more natural and youthful appearance,  the skin must be expanded outward by lifting it away from the underlying bone. This is where the role of fat grafting has come into play. By harvesting fat from another part of your body, it can then be artistically injected back into the face to restore some youthful contours. From the method by which liposuctioned fat is processed prior to injection, it contains a good number of stem cells. (fat has been shown to have 300X to 500X more stem cells than bone marrow) This may partly explain why patients tend to notice improvement in their skin as well as more youthful contours with facial fat grafting.

When facial fat grafting alone is not enough to fill out the deflated face (too much sagging skin), lifting procedures can be done as well. Many types of facelift procedures are done today, which can be lumped into the concept of short incision face lifts. These incisions do not disturb the hairline and results in a very fine line scar around the natural curves of the ear, extending slightly behind the ear. These limited types of facelifts result in some small amount of neck and jowl tuck-up. By adding fat grafting to them, a real 3D (three dimensional) face lift can be achieved.

The Libyan leader was way ahead of his time by getting facial fat grafting before the technique was as developed and understood as it is today. You may say that such fat grafting to the face is the ultimate form of recycling or ‘green surgery’.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana