New technique improves facial fat transfer results


Marianne Taylor is thrilled with the plump contours around her cheeks. She says at 59, her face had developed a sunken look that she felt made her look tired.

"And up around my eyes, I was really getting gaunt looking," she said.

Taylor turned to Los Gatos plastic surgeon Laurence Berkowitz, M.D., who recommended a fat transfer, also known as fat grafting, to restore the contours of the face.

"By filling out the face, you can restore that youthful fullness to the face. It will be a dramatic change for her," Berkowitz said.

Fat grafting itself isn't new. The procedure involves drawing fat from one area of the body, in this case the thighs, so it can be used as a filler in areas like the breasts or face. But Berkowitz says improved technology is making the technique far more effective.

The first step after removal, involves purification. After the fat is purified, it's transferred into a new generation microsyringe known commercially as the "Cell Brush".

"Each dial of the wheel allows me to deliver a tenth of a millimeter of fat each time I turn the wheel, so I'm putting very small amounts of fat in," Berkowitz said.

He says the micro-injections not only ensure a smooth distribution, but also increase the odds that the graft will become a living part of the surrounding tissue.

"Every particle of fat needs its own blood supply, so you have to put it in in very small droplets," he said. "Some of the errors that we made early on in the fat grafting process is putting too much fat in any one spot."

Beth Okunski had a similar procedure after losing 20 pounds on a workout program that had an unintended consequence.

"And unfortunately you lose weight in your face, and that's what did it for me and what I really liked about the fat grafting was he also did this area which tightened up the neck," Okunski said.

Once in place, Berkowitz says the cells will live their normal life cycle, just as that natural fat in the face would.

Taylor is hoping for a long-lasting result, but it's already changing her outlook.

"When I look in the mirror, I don't see a tired, worn out person. So now, I'm happy inside and out," she said.

A facial fat transfer typically costs about $6,000, which includes the cost of the operating room and anesthesiologist, as well as the surgeon.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.

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