Fat Grafting: The Permanent Alternative to Collagen
At last, a method of filling in wrinkles and plumping the lips that is permanent and uses your own extra fat. In the past, plastic surgeons have used a variety of synthetic products to accomplish these goals. The most commonly used products included collagen, Alloderm, and Gortex, each with their own set of problems. Collagen is a product isolated from cows and may cause severe allergic reactions when injected into humans. You must undergo injection of a test patch in the forearm and wait four weeks prior to treatment to rule out the development of an allergic reaction. Collagen also tends to get "lumpy, bumpy" after injection. This probably represents areas where the body is reacting to and removing the collagen and can be very bothersome to the patient. Finally, all collagen is completely reabsorbed by the body, leaving you in the same situation where you began.
Alloderm is a skin product harvested from the skin of deceased humans. It is treated with chemicals to remove the living cells and any viruses that may be present, and is then prepared for injection. The disadvantage of Alloderm is that this product is also removed by the body, although a small amount of volume may be retained as the body partially fills in the area temporarily occupied by the Alloderm.
Gortex is the same material used in the manufacture of waterproof clothing. While it does provide volume enhancement, if it is improperly placed or becomes infected it will have to be removed. Patients may also be able to feel it underneath their skin, which may cause an unpleasant sensation.
Fat grafting is a relatively new procedure that uses your own fat to augment your lips, fill in depressions, or even out wrinkles. The advantages are obvious: no possibility of allergic reaction, this is not a product harvested from another human body, and the results may lead to a permanent correction of the underlying problem or condition.
The technique removes fat from one area of the body and place it in another area through very small incisions that are not noticeable after healing. Approximately 50 to 60% of this transplanted fat survives and becomes a permanent solution for your areas of concern. Because some of the transplanted fat does not survive, a touchup may be required to obtain optimal results. However, the volume that is restored should last you for many years to come.
Dr. Don Revis, Jr., is board certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery.