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Research over the past decade has shown that while people age, the sagging and wrinkled appearance of the face is not only the result of thinning and stretching skin but also deflation and descent of the fat in the face. Many types of synthetic, injectable “fillers” have been created to combat this type of aging, but fat grafting utilizes the patient’s own fat cells and is a long term treatment. Through traditional liposuction techniques in other areas of the body, fat cells are harvested. The fat is then filtered to remove any blood and debris and is transferred to the fat compartments in the face to be augmented. It is injected through small cannulas or needles. Common areas to be fat grafted include the cheeks, the area in front of the jowls, the lips, below the eyes and the temple region. In younger patients, this can be successful as a stand-alone procedure; however, in older patients fat grafting is usually combined with a face and neck lift.
Fat grafting can be performed as a same day procedure. Compression garments can be worn over the areas where fat was harvested, in order to keep the patient comfortable and to decrease swelling. Patients may experience slight bruising in these areas. Areas where fat is injected will be swollen for four to seven days, with trace amounts of swelling persisting longer. Some patients will have small amounts of bruising that last a week or so. Normal activity can resume in a few days. Since a predictable percentage of the grafted fat cells will not survive the first couple of months, a liberal supply of fat is transferred to the face. Therefore, the final, long-term results are not fully realized until two to three months.