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Will Fat Grafting Replace a Facelift?

Written by Frank P. Fechner, MD

Aging of the face is not only due to sagging of facial tissues but also deflation: we lose youthful facial roundness over the years. Combine this volume loss with drooping of facial tissues and you see the early and advanced signs of aging: facial hollowness, loss of soft contours, jowls and neck looseness. Facial fat grafting is the transfer of fat from the patient’s own body to the face and injections of fat into the aging face represent an extremely valuable addition to a face and neck lift. But, it cannot replace it!

For best results in patients with significant facial aging, we perform facelift in conjunction with fat grafting.

Current research suggests that within the transferred fat plenty of stem cells can be found. These stem cells have the ability to develop into “new” cells of virtually any type including skin, fat and other soft tissues. Although the final scientific explanation is pending we certainly observe that fat transfer provides benefits beyond facial volume enhancement. For instance, Dr. Fechner commonly observes improved texture and elasticity of the overlying skin. Although this may be the result of providing the skin with its lost deeper support, research suggests that the stem cells are in part responsible for a true rejuvenation of the skin itself.

When we examine our patients after successful fat transfer, we are commonly amazed how gentle contour enhancements of the temple, under eye region, cheeks and jaw line can advance the facelift’s improvements for a remarkable, natural-looking and youthful appearance.