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Fat Transfer

Fat Transfer, also known as fat grafting or fat injection, is an increasingly common cosmetic procedure used for enhancing volume to the face, hands, breasts, and buttocks. The procedure involves suctioning fat from unwanted, diet and exercise resistant areas via liposuction, and transferring it into areas that lack volume.

You may be a candidate for fat grafting if you:

  • Have facial areas that appear hollowed-out and sunken with shadows, creases and folds.
  • Desire a more permanent correction than can be achieved with facial fillers
  • Wish to naturally enhance the volume and contour of your breasts and/or buttocks
  • Want to rejuvenate your hands
  • Want to improve the appearance of certain scars
  • Want to fill in depressions, asymmetry or any other contour irregularity of your body
  • Are at or near your ideal body weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • Have good skin elasticity and tone

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  • Uses your own (autologous) fat
  • The fat is taken from the hips, flanks, thighs, or abdomen, providing you with a slimmer contour
  • The transferred fat can often create a rejuvenated appearance to the overlying skin
  • The results can be very natural looking and feeling
  • The results can potentially last life-long.


  • Fat grafting can take more time to prepare and inject compared to dermal fillers
  • Depending on the amount of liposuction performed, the procedure may require a general anaesthetic and carry more downtime than dermal fillers.
  • The longevity of the result can be somewhat unpredictable compared to dermal fillers
  • For augmentation, multiple sessions may be required to achieve the desired result

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Fat Grafting

Dr. Jonathan Lee (MD, FRCSC) is an experienced, Canadian and New York fellowship-trained Plastic Surgeon based in Calgary. Well-established, he is board certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and specializes in both cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery.

Dr. Jonathan Lee (MD, FRCSC)

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Fat Transfer

What areas are commonly grafted?

The Face:

  • As we age, the face naturally loses volume in the temples, forehead, cheeks, and jawline giving us a hollowed-out and sunken appearance. Fat can be a useful alternative to facial fillers in these areas.
  • Fat grafting of the face is frequently combined with a facelift and neck lift. This provides a more comprehensive treatment of facial aging by both restoring volume and tightening skin.

Breast Augmentation:

  • A modest increase in the size of the breast can be achieved, provided that you already have a nice breast shape with good skin tone.
  • Women who want a large increase in size or who have sagging breasts with poor skin tone are not good candidates.

Breast Augmentation With Fat Grafting:

  • Occasionally, combining breast augmentation with fat grafting can optimize the shape or smooth contour irregularities of the breast in select patients.

Buttock Augmentation:

  • Also known as the Brazilian Butt Lift
  • Fat grafting may produce a fuller and more curvaceous buttocks without implants
  • Liposuction is used to both harvest the fat and help sculpt the buttocks

Hand Rejuvenation:

  • A minimally invasive way of providing a more youthful appearance to the hands
  • Fat grafting can restore volume, fill in wrinkled hollow areas, and cover underlying veins and tendons.
  • The procedure is usually done under a local anesthetic (freezing alone)
  • Improves the quality and appearance of the overlying skin

Before the Surgery

During your initial consultation, Dr. Lee will discuss your desired results and perform a thorough evaluation of the area of interest.

Your body shape, size, and proportions will also be assessed to determine optimal donor sites for liposuction.

Dr. Lee will determine if you are a good candidate for liposuction and fat transfer and he will make a recommendation tailored to your specific goals. He may also recommend combining the treatment with other face or body contour-enhancing options.

Pre-treatment photos will be taken and any potential risks and complications will also be discussed.

Dr. Lee always encourages his patients to bring in photos of how they looked when they were younger. This may include face and body photos or simply features that they find attractive. This often helps in the discussion and visualization of the target goals.

How is fat transfer performed?

The procedure is usually performed under a general anaesthetic and takes between 1 to 4 hours depending on the extent of liposuction and the area being treated.

The procedure consists of 3 steps: 1) Harvesting 2) Purification and Transfer, 3) Placement


  • A solution containing lidocaine (freezing) and epinephrine is injected into the target donor areas (tumescent).
  • Small incisions are used at discrete locations to insert a thin tube attached to suction (cannula).
  • The cannula is used to harvest the fat and suction it away from the target areas


  • The collected fat is processed and purified usually with centrifuge or a filtration device
  • Purified fat is then transferred into small syringes that are used for injecting


  • The desired area to be augmented is sterilized an a small incision is made in a discrete location
  • A needle or cannula is then passed in and out of the target area. With each pass, a small line of fat is carefully deposited into the natural tissue plane.
  • This process is repeated until the desired result has been achieved.

After the Surgery

  • Most patients are able to return home two hours following the surgery.
  • A supportive compression garment is usually worn for the first three weeks following surgery in order to reduce swelling and aid in the healing process.
  • No pressure is to applied to the freshly grafted areas
  • Dr. Lee will typically see you one week following the surgery and any small stitches will be removed. Scarring is typically minimal as the incisions are tiny and well concealed. The next visits will be after 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 1 year.


Although most people will notice an improvement in their body or face contour immediately after surgery, swelling will often obscure the final result. Most of this swelling will settle within 3 weeks but any residual swelling may continue to resolve over the course of three months or longer.

In order to maintain the results of your surgery, Dr. Lee always recommends that you maintain a stable weight with a healthy diet and exercise routine both before and after your surgery.

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Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons
American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
Alberta Society of Plastic Surgeons
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
University of Calgary