One of the hottest new developments in plastic surgery is using a patient’s own fat to restore volume to the aging face. Studies show, as we age the face undergoes bony changes such as enlargement and elongation of the eye orbit, as well as a loss of fatty tissue or volume. A new procedure that’s becoming increasingly popular is the use of fat injections to restore volume and plump the facial tissue. Dr. Bruce Van Natta, a board certified plastic surgeon says fat injections to the face can often replace the traditional facelift. Van Natta says, “I’ve been aggressively using fat for the past couple of years to restore fullness to faces which have deflated with age and I’m highly encouraged by the clinical results I’m seeing.”
By Bruce Van Natta, MD
and Carolynn Grimes
”Historically as plastic surgeons, we looked at aging faces and saw laxity of the tissues. The classic correction was to tighten the tissues through facelifts and brow lifts. Now surgeons recognize that the problem may not always be from loose tissues but from volume loss,” says Van Natta.
We all Experience Facial Volume Loss as We Age
According to Van Natta, volume loss is frequently seen under the eyes and in the folds from the base of the nose to the mouth, also in the temples and lateral brow area. He says these changes can be seen in patients as young as their thirties, and with time, virtually everyone develops volume loss.
“One obvious solution to correct volume loss is to restore it. Initially is was done with fillers such as Restylane, Juvederm and Sculptra. However, these fillers have limits and often have to be re-injected periodically,” says Van Natta.
Fat Grafting Can Result in Less Aggressive Facelifts
Many surgeons have found that with the combination of Botox or Dysport and fat grafting they have significantly reduced the number of brow lifts they perform. Patients say they can hold off on a face or brow lift for years, or may opt for a less aggressive facelift with the use of fat grafting.
Van Natta says the placement of fat grafts in the face is technically very challenging. “It requires significant expertise on the part of the surgeon. Be sure to visit a surgeon who’s certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and don’t be afraid to ask how many of these procedures the surgeon performs,” warns Van Natta.
There can be prolonged swelling and bruising associated with fat grafting to the face and expect about half of the volume placed will remain long term. Van Natta says, “As far as we can tell, the fat that is grafted, is very long lasting, possibly lifelong.”