The Surgeon Minute

21st Century Magic: Fat Grafting

21st Century Magic: Fat Grafting

The use of a patient’s fat to rejuvenate other areas of the body is a growing procedure in plastic surgery with amazing results. Dr. Bruce Van Natta of Indianapolis, Indiana discusses the “miraculous” effects of the procedure and how it is taking the plastic surgery field by storm.

By: Bruce Van Natta, MD
and Adam McMillon 


I wish I could take some fat out from here and put it there… NOW YOU CAN!

Fat grafting is a surgical procedure where fat is removed from the body in order to be placed elsewhere. Let’s say you have lost some volume in your face and are looking to rejuvenate the area. Non-invasive procedures, such as Botox or fillers, elevate facial features by injecting artificial material. Fat grafting also elevates the area, but the grafted cells recognize those in the face and interact positively with each other. This interaction increases the health of the area and makes the change permanent. Why does transferred fat make the area healthier? The answer lies in near-magical cells inside the fat: stem cells.


Stem cells do more than just add volume

The magic of fat grafting comes in the form of stem cells that are inside that fat when it is removed and grafted.  When the fat is put in elsewhere, the stem cells rejuvenate the cells of the area, which stimulates new blood supply, allowing for a whole host of benefits. Think of it this way: while Botox and fillers simply add artificial volume to areas, grafted fat is the body’s own cells, so they communicate with the cells in the new location and blend in with the body’s biological system. The stimulated blood supply from the stem cells creates an extremely healthy environment that improves skin texture, color and permanently integrates into the new area. “Some of the fat cells will not survive, but the ones that do will integrate themselves and create a permanent change,” says Van Natta. “What better way to add volume than to use what was originally lost? Fat is what we lose over time, so adding it back can make a change that could last for the remainder of the patient’s life.”


What areas work well for fat grafting?

The almost miraculous effects of fat grafting can be used in nearly all areas of the body.

  • Hands – Add volume and rejuvenate the color and texture of the skin
  • Face – Add long-lasting volume without the use of artificial fillers
  • Breasts – Vastly improve conditions following reconstructive surgery, and augment breast implantation for a more natural look
  • Buttock – Increase volume without having to resort to implants

“One of the best uses for fat grafting is using it following reconstructive breast surgery,” says Van Natta. “The breasts undergo severe changes after a patient is treated for breast cancer, and the discomfort can last for a long time after a double mastectomy or related procedures. With the stem cell carrying fat, we can not only improve the volume when shaping the breast area, but also greatly improve the biological environment. The stem cells inside the fat have shown to improve not only the skin texture and color, but revive some of the sensation of the area and reduce lingering pain. As far as we can tell, fat grafting is an almost miraculous procedure whose benefits are only beginning to be realized.”

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