Q: Dr. Eppley, I would like to get rid of my facial wasting due to HIV. I am interested in cheek implants and fat fillers for lipodystrophy. I have attached a picture of my face for your evaluation.
A: In looking at the one picture you sent, your greatest area of lipoatrophy is in the temples and secondarily in the submalar regions. Compared to many patients that I see, your degree of facial lipoatrophy is fortunately more moderate in severity. Given that you have existing lipoatrophy, and I assume you are on antiviral medication, this makes the use of injectable fat survival precarious at best. For this reason, I make an effort to use permanent synthetic implants when possible for its treatment. These would be applicable to the temporal, submalar and even the nasolabial fold areas. But facial implants do not cover all facial lipoatrophy areas and are at best thought of as building blocks from which to fill around with fat injections as needed. Even though fat injection survival is unpredictable, it is the best filler to use for broader facial areas. And since it is not the only method of treatment that is being done, any survival that is achieved is a bonus to the underlying implants.
Dr. Barry Eppley
Q: I have been infected with HIV for nearly 15 years. While he medications have been invaluable and have saved my life I suffer from some of their cosmetic side effects including a very gaunt face and a non-existant butt. For my face which is better, fillers or iimplants. Can anything be done to my butt bigger?
A: One of the well known side effects of the medications to treat HIV is lipoatrophy or fat loss. The fat loss is quite specific, however, and has a predilection for facial and buttock fat. Loss of the buccal fat pads and, in severe cases, much of the subcutaneous fat results in a sunken in or very gaunt look to the face. It is such a classic presentation that it can be socially stigmatizing has having the underlying medical problem. In the buttocks, fat is lost so they become very flat appearing. Other parts of the body, for unknown reasons, undergo fat hypertrophy (excessive growth) most commonly in the back of the neck (buffalo hump) and in the abdominal area.
Facial lipoatrophy can be successfully improved with a variety of approaches including synthetic cheek implants, fat injections, or synthetic fillers. (e.g., Sculptra) Which one is best must be determined on an individual basis considering the extent of the fat loss and whether one prefers to avoid actual surgery or not. Fat grafting is probably best avoided as its persistence in the face of the medications is unlikely.
Treatment of buttock lipoatrophy is a different matter with no good options. Fat injections are not adviseable due to likely complete resorption and a result which will be underwhelming. This leaves buttock implants as the only option which carries with it a significant recovery and risks of infection and seroma complications.
No type of plastic surgery should be performed in an HIV patient unless their cell counts have been normalized and medical clearance is obtained from their treating physician. According to recent studies, the infection rate for plastic surgery procedures is not different in HIV vs non-HIV patient populations if good cell counts exist.
Dr. Barry Eppley