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Summary: New research may be changing the way that fat grafts—a popular cosmetic procedure—are performed. As the procedure is traditionally performed, only 16% or so of the fat that is transferred survives to graft into the new area. In trials of Stem-Cell Enriched fat grafts, however, more of the fat survives the procedure–around 80%–leading to longer-lasting and more predictable results.


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Thinking About Fat Differently

Fat is kind of like garbage: most of the time, people want to get rid of it. But recently, cosmetic surgeons found a way to recycle and reuse our fat. During a procedure called a fat graft (when performed on a smaller scale usually called a fat injection), fat is removed from a “donor” section of the body and strategically implanted into a desired part of the body. Because fat is removed from an undesired area and placed somewhere more flattering, fat grafts can efficiently sculpt the look the patient sees for him or herself. Due to the natural look of the end products, fat grafts have only become more popular.

According to Dr. Loghmanee and Dr. Cerio at ECA Plastic Surgery in New Jersey, “This procedure is for those seeking to improve signs of aging in the face, or increase fullness in various areas of the body… such as the arms, buttocks, and hands.”

This procedure has also become very common in terms of breast augmentation and in terms of lower body lifts and so on. It can be used to smooth out wrinkles in the face, add to fullness in the checks or lips, but also be used in the arms or buttocks.

The drawback to this procedure is durability. When fat is grafted to a new area, only 16% tends to survive. This can mean that the effects of the procedure are not always as permanent as patients would like. It’s understandably disappointing for patients when their new, full lips disappear a little more quickly than they thought.

Making Fat Last Longer

New research, however, might be changing that. Evidence published in The Lancet suggests that up to 80% of the stem-cell enriched fatty tissue survives the procedure, which is an enormous increase over that 16% figure that most current fat graft patients contend with.

This is, still, relatively new, and it will take time to see if the results can be verified, confirmed, and scalable to larger practices (and, indeed, whether the cost of such scaling can be justified). It’s worth noting that a sample size of only 20 people (ten with the stem-cell enriched graft and ten with traditional grafts) is a pretty small sample size.

What this does indicate with some certainty, however, is that fat transplants and fat grafts are becoming popular and permanent procedures. They are not simply a fad, in other words. Dr Loghmanee and Dr. Cerio, who perform fat injections in New Jersey, reiterate that, “This procedure is usually used to improve signs of aging, most commonly in the face.” And cosmetic surgeons are invested in improving the procedure, the results, and client satisfaction regarding fat grafts.

It also an indication that patients are looking for more natural means of getting the results offered by cosmetic surgery. And if fat grafts can begin to offer similar results to artificial implants, there’s little doubt that we’ll see an even steeper acceleration of the rise in popularity of this particular procedure.

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