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Sharp Health News

Putting body fat to good use

Aug. 1, 2017

Putting body fat to good use

Fat transfer in plastic surgery sounds like the latest fad or celebrity trend, yet it has been a technique commonly used by plastic surgeons since the 1990s. Dr. Moneer Jaibaji, a board-certified plastic surgeon affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, explains what it’s all about.

How does fat transfer work and how is it performed?
Fat transfer, or fat graft, is a procedure of removing fat from one part of the body and transferring it to another part of the body. The fat is removed from certain areas where there is fat excess using a small, flexible tube. The fat is then processed and placed in syringes prior to reinjecting it in the desired area.

When would someone consider this option and what are its benefits?
This technique has applications in both reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. It has been used to correct contour defects in breast cancer patients and in head and neck reconstruction. We use it to alleviate the effects of radiation changes to the skin and to the breast. It can also be used for upper and lower extremity defects. In cosmetic surgery, fat transfer is used in the face to improve volume loss from the effects of time and age, as well as in breast and buttock enhancement.

Is this done as an inpatient or outpatient procedure, and what is the recovery time?
Fat transfer is primarily done as an outpatient procedure and is performed with a wide variety of anesthetics, depending on the volume of fat that is extracted. Recovery is usually short. Patients can expect swelling and bruising in the areas where the fat was removed and transferred. This typically lasts for two to three weeks, and the pain is usually manageable with oral painkillers.

How safe is it and what are the side effects or possible issues?
The procedure is very safe if performed by someone who is specially trained. The side effects are limited if performed properly. The main side effects are fat cysts, calcification, necrosis of fat and fat resorption. Fat embolism is a complication, but the risk is low with the use of proper equipment and technique.

What advice do you have for someone considering this type of treatment?
Get a consultation from a board-certified plastic surgeon. Another great resource is the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website.

Besides fat transfer, what are other new treatments and advancements in plastic or reconstructive surgery currently offered or on the horizon?
There has been significant advances in breast reconstruction with the use of new types of expanders and dermal matrix. There are also a growing number of longer-lasting injectable fillers for facial rejuvenation and to treat double chin. Deoxycholic acid (known by the brand name Kybella®) is an injectable that can remove fat from the neck without surgery.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Jaibaji about this and other cosmetic surgery techniques for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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