Lipofilling describes the process of taking fat from one part of the body (the donor site) using special techniques, processing it, and injecting it into another area of the body (the recipient site) for aesthetic or functional reasons. It often requires more than one session (procedure) to produce the final desired result. This is because the fat needs to develop a blood supply from its new “home” and if too much is put in at any one time, problems can occur (see below). Therefore as much as is safe is injected at any one time to avoid complications, but often this is not enough to complete the final desired outcome in one sitting.
What does it involve?
Small volume lipofilling may be performed under a local anaesthetic (with you awake), but it is normally performed under a general anaesthetic (with you asleep). First of all, fat is harvested from previously agreed areas, such as the abdomen, the flanks or the thighs. This is done through very small incisions using a technique similar to liposuction.
Subsequently, the fat is filtered and washed in saline, to purify it and remove any blood or excess oil. Once ready, it is put into syringes and can then be injected via tiny “stab incisions” into the desired location.
What are the benefits?
Lipofilling uses your own fat, which is therefore 100% natural. Once injected, a proportion of the fat will be reabsorbed by the body (up to 50% in some circumstances), however the remainder will last as a permanent filler. The final consistency is soft and pliable, replicating the areas where it is administered.
How long does the surgery take?
The length of surgery depends upon the volume of fat to be transferred and may take between 1-3 hours.
What is the recovery period?
Initially there will be bruising in the area that fat was harvested from (this may last 2-4 weeks but continues to improve with time), and you may have some straw-coloured fluid oozing from the donor site wounds temporarily. Wearing a supportive pressure garment for 6-weeks following the surgery may help to speed up the resolution of any swelling at the donor site.
At the site of fat injection, there will be swelling which lasts around 6-weeks. It is important to be aware that this swelling will subside, which then shows the amount of fat that will permanently remain – if you are not aware of this, it can be disappointing to see the swelling disappear! As mentioned above, it is usual for more than one session of fat grafting to be needed to achieve the final desired result.
Most people will be able to return to work at 1-2 weeks following surgery, but you may need longer if larger volumes have been transferred. Any discomfort and pain may be relieved with painkillers and you are encouraged to gently walk after the operation.
How long before daily activities may be resumed?
Strenuous activity should be avoided for at least 2-weeks. You may be able to drive from 48-72 hours after surgery, but remember that you need to be comfortable in performing an emergency stop or similar manoeuvre.