Fat transfer is a relatively new procedure for filling out areas, including the buttocks, the breasts, around the eyes, and the cheeks. Fat is a natural product that comes from your own body so that it is impossible to be allergic to it. The biggest problem with fat transfer to any body area is that there can be fat necrosis or fat cell death because the fat cells don’t always get the circulation developed that can allow the fat to survive. With cell necrosis, there can be indentations in the affected area and dimpling can occur.
When it comes to fat transfer, cheeks are not a common area but it is a procedure that works best for those who have sunken cheeks. This can happen due to age or a great deal of weight loss. The fat transfer to cheeks takes very little fat and the area is highly vascular so that the fat takes up circulation easier than, say, the buttocks or breast.
The procedure goes as follows: An area of the body is selected, such as the buttocks, thighs, upper arms, hips or abdomen. Fat is removed by liposuction from the donor area. One can remove extra fat so that there is a nice body contouring of that area. The fat is then taken to the laboratory, where it is centrifuged. It is centrifuged to remove red blood cells, broken fat cells and connective tissue that aren’t needed. The end result is a slurry that looks like melted butter. The fat cells are loaded into small syringes with small needles.
The cheeks are sterilized with antiseptic. The needle is inserted into the skin down to the lowest level. A small bolus of fat is injected into the tissue. Then another bolus is injected just above that and the process is repeated so that a line of boluses raises the level of the cheeks. Another area is selected and more boluses are injected. Up to a hundred or so boluses are injected to fill out the cheeks and make them look plumper.
The small boluses are necessary because a tiny bolus will accept a blood supply better than the larger bolus. There will be less fat necrosis and there will be fewer repeat visits to put more boluses into the cheeks. The end result is a plumped up cheek that looks younger and fresher than a sunken one.
There is no incision with fat transfer to cheeks and there will simply be multiple small syringe marks. These heal within a few days and the only risks are bleeding, hematoma (blood clot formation), infection, swelling, or fat necrosis. Infections may need to be treated with antibiotics but the rest of the side effects will resolve spontaneously.
Other options other than fat transfer to cheeks include cheek implants and fillers. These have disadvantages because one can be allergic to the fillers or to the cheek implant and there are no allergies in fat transfer to cheeks. The cheek implant can also look too obvious and can show the edges of the cheeks, depending on the thickness of the tissue overlying the implant. Fat transfer can last indefinitely but, in any event, lasts longer than most fillers put into the cheek area.