It’s the nature of physicians to continually seek ways to improve existing procedures. I’ve been actively involved with those efforts, both nationally and in New Jersey. Plastic surgery is a particularly fast-evolving field, and right now fat grafting is one of the subjects generating a lot of attention.
A 2013 report issued by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) found that plastic surgeons performed 72,000 fat transfers in 2012, compared with 38,000 in 1997. As you can see, fat grafting isn’t a new procedure.
It’s been used in both cosmetic and reconstructive procedures for years. It’s especially effective for facial rejuvenation. As I told Surgical Aesthetics magazine earlier this year, fat cells can replace lost volume and dramatically improve someone’s appearance. And the process seems to have unique, nutritive effect on the tissues around the grafted fat, helping to improve the skin’s contour and texture. In recent years, fat grafting has been used more in both augmentative and reconstructive breast enhancement procedures with good results.
One of the main challenges moving forward is improving fat grafting techniques so a greater percentage of the fat cells grafted remain viable. Currently the amount of fat that survives long-term is difficult to predict, requiring surgeons to use more fat than is needed for a specific procedure. The advantages of fat grafting are so great, however, that I’m confident progress will continue. The process of grafting fat enriched with stem cells is also promising.
Despite advances, however, it’s important for plastic surgeons to be realistic about the opportunities and limitations of fat grafting. Educating patients about the potential of fat grafting must be done using evidence-based, scientific outcomes. Ultimately, I’m optimistic about what the future holds for this technique.