The Lowdown on Fat Grafting and Lipo

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Before noninvasive treatments and fat-melting devices made their mark on the body-contouring front, liposuction was the method of choice. While it’s still viewed as the ultimate way to eliminate fat and contour the body, the removed fat can now be used to better the shape of your body by removing it from one area and transferring it to another.

How it works: Once fat has been suctioned out from the stomach, hips or thighs, your plastic surgeon will strain and wash it with saline, before drying and cleaning it (La Jolla, CA, plastic surgeon Lori Saltz, MD says there are more sophisticated methods that include spinning the aspirated fat in a centrifuge or running it through a filtration system). “If the fat is not rid of any fibers and blood products then more unwanted inflammation will be induced, which will result in more fat resorption,” notes Beverly Hills, CA, plastic surgeon Randall Haworth, MD. From there, the fat is injected into volume deficient areas— body fat can also be used to plump up aging areas of the face, too.

When to do it: Nearly all plastic surgeons like to perform liposuction and fat grafting in a single surgical setting. But if the body absorbs the transplanted fat, or it dies off, and the effects are no longer visible, he or she may recommend a secondary procedure. 

If you’re not ready: For those that would rather “hang onto their fat,” there is the option to bank it for use at a later date (similar to the concept of freezing stem cells post child birth). Stored fat doesn’t expire and in most cases, it can be used for any capacity, although it is important to verify that the FDA licenses the facility as a tissue bank.

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