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Facial Fat Grafting Procedure

Learn more about fat grafting procedure in Brisbane with Dr David Sharp. Scroll down to discover the benefits, risks and recovery.

Learn more about fat grafting procedure in Brisbane with Dr David Sharp. Scroll down to discover the benefits, risks and recovery.

What is fat grafting or fat transfer?

Fat transfer, also known as fat grafting or autologous fat transplantation, involves fat being removed from one part of the body using liposuction, and transfer to another part of the body via injection.

This procedure is most commonly used for breast, face, buttock and cheek enhancements, filling hollowing that has occurred due to weight loss or ageing.

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How does fat transfer procedure differ from fat removal?

During fat removal, fat cells are suctioned out of the body using liposuction technology. Dr Sharp uses Vaser liposuction technology which efficiently removes fat without damaging surrounding tissue.

For fat grafting or transfer, this fat is then separated from blood and other liposuction fluids, and injected into other parts of the body, increasing volume in these areas.

Areas of the body where Dr Sharp transferrs fat to includes breasts, buttocks and face – as well as other areas of the torso and limbs sometimes to reconstruct deficits after trauma or procedure.


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Is fat removal through liposuction permanent?

Yes, once fat cells are removed they will not ‘grow back’. But if you gain weight, the remaining fat cells can enlarge, so maintaining an ideal weight after your procedure is imperative for good results.

Will the transferred fat stay there forever or and how long do results last?

After 6-12 weeks you will begin to see your results emerge. If fat survives the first 6 months post procedure, it will be permanent. Remember fat cells can enlarge when you gain weight or shrink when you lose weight, but the number of cells does not change once the fat ‘takes’ to its new home.

During the early healing stage, some of the grafted fat will not survive, and your surgeon will discuss this with you during your pre op consultations. Fat survival rates can vary but it is important to remember that following your post op instructions, abstaining from smoking and adhering to a healthy diet will provide an optimal recovery.

Fat transfer: what to look out for:

Liposuction and fat grafting should only be performed by a qualified specialist plastic surgeon; plenty of doctors pose as ‘surgeons’ to attract patients but have not undergone the Australian Medical board-recognised training required to obtain this qualification. Like all procedure, this procedure carries risks and it’s important to entrust your body to a qualified specialist surgeon. See if your doctor is a qualified surgeon by using the surgeon finder here.

What parts of the body respond well to fat transfer?

  • As we age it is normal to start losing fat and muscle mass from underneath the skin on the face, breast and body
  • Fat transfer allows the individual to remove fat from one area and place it on another 
  • Fat transfer can be used for reconstructive purposes, cosmetic purposes and certain types of scars and contour deformities.
  • Fat grafting can be used to restore volume loss in your breast, buttocks and face. Dr Sharp also performs fat grafting in conjunction with breast augmentation procedure and facelift. 

Is fat transfer safe?

When performed under the right conditions, in an accredited Australian hospital by a qualified specialist plastic surgeon, fat transfer carries low morbidity and mortality rates.

Fat necrosis and fat embolism are the two most serious complications of fat grafting. Read on for more information.

During your consults, Dr Sharp will discuss the steps he takes to reduce these risk and monitor your post operative recovery.

How is fat transfer performed?

The fat transfer procedure may be performed under local or general anaesthetic depending on the extent of the procedure.

The area from which the fat is removed is known as the ‘donor’ site. The ‘recipient’ site is the area where the fat is injected back into the body.

In most cases, this procedure is performed under general anaesthetic, administered by a specialist anaesthetist.

Both donor site and recipient site are cleansed before procedure and numbed with a local anaesthetic. This helps to reduce bleeding while also helping with postoperative comfort. A syringe with a small cannula is then used to extract the fat through a small incision in the donor site.

Once the fat is removed, it is separated from any fluid and re-injected into the recipient site. A pressure dressing is applied to the donor site after the procedure.

What can be expected after fat transfer?

You will have some swelling and bruising; the products we provide in your post operative care bag will assist with your healing. The area will be tender and pain relief will be prescribed to keep you comfortable.

Tenderness and unusual sensations can be experienced for weeks or even months after the procedure as your nerves regenerate and swelling subsides.

You might be required to wear compression or support garments for 6 weeks after procedure and avoid any pressing or sitting on the fat grafted area.

Avoid strenuous activity for 6 weeks; this includes spa baths and submerging the operative sites in spas, baths or pools etc to reduce your risk of infection.

Risks and complications

All procedure carries risks but due to the nature of transplanting cells in the body, the outcome of grafting is not as predictable as other cosmetic procedure and therefore complications or unsatisfactory results are sometimes unavoidable. This may necessitate additional procedure.

During the pre operative consultation process it’s important that you discuss any history of depression or mental health disorders. If you are unsure whether your history is relevant, please mention it anyway.

Although most patients benefit from elective cosmetic procedure, the effects on mental health can never be predicted if your procedure does not yield the results you were hoping for, and could possibly have a negative influence on your mental health.

You may experience some temporary oozing of fluid; sometimes drains will be placed during procedure and removed 1-3 days after when the oozing has reduced. Discomfort, a burning sensation, redness, swelling or bruising is common but usually well managed with the post operative care tools we provide. Swelling can take months to subside, so patience is vital while your results reveal themselves.

Please note that the below risks and complications apply to both the areas that undergo fat transfer and also the areas where the fat is harvested from (donor site)

Unsatisfactory change in appearance. It is important to understand that more than one treatment may be needed and therefore to discuss with your surgeon the costs associated with repeat treatments.

If you experience weight gain, the transferred fat may increase in volume and cause an undesirable appearance.

Firmness and lumpiness: it is possible that the fat may become firm, hard, or lumpy. If some of the fat does not survive the transfer, it may result in fat necrosis (death of transferred fat tissue), causing firmness and discomfort or pain. Further procedure may be required, along with additional scarring and healing.

Asymmetry: symmetrical body appearance may not result from a fat transfer procedure. Factors such as skin tone, fatty deposits, bony prominence, and muscle tone may contribute to normal asymmetry in body features.

Long-Term Effects: subsequent changes in the shape or appearance of the area where the fat was removed or placed may occur as the result of ageing, weight loss or gain, or other circumstances not related to the fat transfer procedure.

Tissue Loss: In rare cases, the transferred fat may cause the skin over the treated area to be injured resulting in loss of the skin and surrounding tissue. This may leave scars and disfigurement and require procedure for treatment.

Fat Transfer to Breasts: fat transfer has been used to improve the appearance of breasts reconstructed after cancer treatment, to improve the appearance of breast deformities, and to enlarge breasts for cosmetic purposes. While there is limited information regarding the long-term implications of such procedures, there are some potential concerns especially with regards to breast cancer detection. Since the transferred fat may become firm and cause lumps, it may be necessary to have radiological studies (mammogram, ultrasound, or MRI) performed to be sure these lumps are not due to cancer. It is also possible that the firmness may make it more difficult for you or your doctor to examine the breasts. It is also possible that a biopsy may be needed if there is concern about any abnormal findings in your breasts. However, there is no reason to believe that fat transfer procedures may cause breast cancer.

Serious Complications: Although serious complications have been reported to be associated with fat transfer procedures, these are very rare. Such conditions include, but are not limited to: Fat embolism (a piece of fat may find its way into the blood stream and result in a serious or life threatening condition), stroke, meningitis (inflammation of the brain), serious infection, blindness or loss of vision, or death.

Blood Clots: Blood clots in the veins of the arms, legs, or pelvis may result from fat transfer if it is done as a procedure. These clots may cause problems with the veins or may break off and flow to the lungs where they may cause serious breathing problems.


Bleeding: It is possible, though unusual, to experience a bleeding episode during or after procedure. Should post- operative bleeding occur, it may require emergency treatment to drain accumulated blood or you may require a blood transfusion.

Infection: Infection is unusual after procedure. Should an infection occur, additional treatment including antibiotics, hospitalisation, or additional procedure may be necessary.

Scarring: All procedure leaves scars, some more visible than others. Although good wound healing after a procedure is expected, abnormal scars may occur within the skin and deeper tissues.

Firmness: Excessive firmness can occur after procedure due to internal scarring. The occurrence of this is not predictable.

Change in Skin Sensation: It is common to experience diminished (or loss) of skin sensation in areas that have had procedure. Diminished (or complete loss of skin sensation) may not totally resolve.

Skin Contour Irregularities: Contour and shape irregularities may occur. Visible and palpable wrinkling of skin may occur. Residual skin irregularities at the ends of the incisions or “dog ears” are always a possibility when there is excessive redundant skin. This may improve with time, or it can be surgically corrected.

Skin Discoloration / Swelling: Some bruising and swelling normally occur. The skin in or near the procedure site can appear either lighter or darker than surrounding skin. Although uncommon, swelling and skin discoloration may persist for long periods of time and, in rare situations, may be permanent.

Skin Sensitivity: Itching, tenderness, or exaggerated responses to hot or cold temperatures may occur after procedure. Usually this resolves during healing, but in rare situations it may be chronic.

Delayed Healing: Wound disruption or delayed wound healing is possible. Some areas of the skin may not heal normally and may take a long time to heal. Areas of skin may die. This may require frequent dressing changes or further procedure to remove the non-healed tissue. Smokers have a greater risk of skin loss and wound healing complications.

Unsatisfactory Result- Although good results are expected, there is no guarantee or warranty expressed or implied, on the results that may be obtained. You may be disappointed with the results of fat transfer procedure. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single procedure. Additional procedure may be required to improve results which can lead to further financial costs to you.

Cardiac and Pulmonary Complications: Pulmonary complications may occur secondarily to both blood clots (pulmonary emboli), fat deposits (fat emboli) or partial collapse of the lungs after general anaesthesia. Pulmonary emboli can be life-threatening or fatal in some circumstances. Inactivity and other conditions may increase the incidence of blood clots traveling to the lungs causing a major blood clot that may result in death. Cardiac complications are a risk with any procedure and anaesthesia, even in patients without symptoms. If you experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or unusual heart beats, seek medical attention immediately. Should any of these complications occur, you may require hospitalisation and additional treatment.

Benefits of fat transfer

  • Fat transfer has become a method for people to decrease fat in one area of their body and increase it in another.
  • Fat transfer uses the body’s own natural tissue
  • Not all transferred fat will survive, but the fat that does survive will be long lasting, provided the patient’s weight does not fluctuate, in which case the transferred fat cells will get larger or smaller.
  • The procedure may be combined with other procedures such as breast augmentation or facelift to increase volume without the use of temporary dermal fillers


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