What is involved in the process of fat grafting exactly?
We ask plastic surgeon Dr. Bryce Cowan about what patients should expect on the day of the surgical procedure.
Fat grafting can be done under local anesthetic, or if it’s a larger procedure combined with other surgical treatments, general anesthetic (the kind that puts you to sleep) is used. Volume deficiency is first identified and marked, and harvest site is chosen, usually the abdomen or the flank. That area is then anesthetized or a tumescent solution is used if larger volumes of fat are required.
The surgeon makes a 3mm incision in the harvest site and using a suction based cannula system, harvest whole fat cells. These specialized cannulas avoid unnecessary damage to the fat cells. Once extracted, the fat cells are washed, processed, and then transferred to larger syringes. Then they are transferred to finer 1cc syringes for introduction.
At this stage, the surgeon uses a blunt tip cannula of appropriate shapes and sizes to reintroduce the fat cells to the new site. A 3mm incision is used, and multiple passes are made in different planes to add volume in a layered fashion. The blunt tipped cannulas minimize the risk of trauma to surrounding blood vessels and minimizes the chance of introducing fat into the vessels that can potentially cause fat emboli, a possible risk of the procedure. Once the fat is successfully introduced, a small suture is used to close the site and the area is allowed to heal with just a fine dressing.