The effects of the ageing process on the face causes the skin to become loose which gives rise to jowls and folds in the neck as well as a loss of soft tissue volume particularly in the cheek area due to drooping of the cheek fat. In contrast to the fullness of youth the face later in life can look gaunt with a sunken appearance in the region of the cheek bones and mid face. Fat transfer is an operation to take fat from one part of the body (e.g. the abdomen or buttocks) and transfer it to another part of the body, usually the face, to try and reverse some of these changes. It can also be useful in correcting the facial contour abnormalities seen following traumatic scars and be used to cosmetically enhance the lips. The operation can be performed under local or general anaesthetic depending on the extent of the treatment, takes about 1 hour to perform and usually is performed as a day case procedure.
During the procedure, the donor area for harvesting fat is prepared in a similar fashion to performing liposuction. The fat is harvested using a special suction cannula so it is not damaged. it is then centrifuged to allow separation of the intact healthy fat cells from those that have damaged. The live fat cells are then injected in the treatment areas using a very fine cannula to place tiny amounts of fat in tunnels which are carefully built up to form layers which restore volume and shape. Between 50% and 60% of the transferred fat survives. This means a certain amount of overcorrection is required which also contributes to some of the swelling following surgery. Fat transfer is often performed in conjunction with other surgical procedures such as a facelift.