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Category Archives: Fat grafting

Rejuvenate your breast shape and volume with simultaneous breast lift and fat grafting

Unfortunately gravity is unceasing and combined with age and sun related skin loss of elasticity a woman’s tissues surrounding her breast can lead to the breast mound falling lower on the chest. Additionally, the volume inside the breast can diminish with hormonal changes after pregnancy and menopause and with significant weight loss.  All these factors triumphantly combine to give an aged appearance that can be significantly disproportionate to the otherwise youthful feeling of a women. Sound depressing? Sure it does but the artistry and science behind plastic surgery can offset these changes to a woman’s breasts and make them feel good about the skin they are in.

If someone is unhappy with the appearance of their breasts it is helpful for analysis sake to deconstruct the breast into two separate components: the overlying skin brazier, and the volume and its distribution of the breast mound on the chest wall.

The mound itself may have adequate volume but most of the distribution of the volume is in the lower pole of the breast well below the breast fold requiring a bra to perform a heroic task of keeping the breast on the proper location on the chest wall. This situation can be improved by a mastopexy (lift) with creating a lower pole breast flap of tissue transposed under the rest of the breast mound and fixated to a non-mobile portion of the chest wall to provide upper pole fullness. In this situation the skin brazier is loose and has allowed the breast mound to sink inferiorly and requires and generous amount of skin to be removed and repositioned to be coincident with the newly shaped breast mound. For some women this may produce a nice result but particularly individuals who have a very long trunk with a great distance from the breast fold to the collar bone, creating the appearance of low set breasts, the above technique requires another means of providing upper pole fullness. Some women are comfortable with adding an augmentation with a breast implant to enhance shape and form and creating a nice upper pole roundness. Some surgeons are comfortable offering an augmentation at the same time as the mastopexy. Other surgeons would argue, based on data which has shown a 25% revision rate with the combined procedures, would prefer to stage these techniques. I personally like to perform the augmentation mastopexy in a single stage because I would rather have the implant in place to provide shape and volume to the overlying breast mound prior to tailoring the skin envelope of the lift procedure. I find this saves the patient a second general anesthesia, reduces expenses, and can be performed in the office setting with much less cost. Generally, it is only a minor skin re-tailoring to minimally reposition the nipple-areolar complex vertically on the breast mound.

Implants can provide structural shaping and volume enhancement of the breast mound but there are definitely limitations to their effect. Women who have structural limitations to their chest wall anatomy can have difficulty in achieving satisfactory results with implants alone. Individuals with very wide sternums and rapidly sloping chest walls cannot achieve meaningful cleavage with implants alone because the devise cannot be placed on the sternum. Another anatomic limitation eluded to in the above paragraph is the long chest wall with the accentuated length of the breast fold to collar bone giving the illusion of the low set breast. Even an anatomic shaped breast implant which is taller than it is wide still cannot mask this affect. In both of the above situations in which implants are chosen as the enhancer of choice the addition of fat grafting is necessary to create a much enhanced result. The beauty of fat grafting is that it can be placed in any position on the chest or breast. It can be similar to the concept of photo-shopping an image and allows the surgeon to truly sculpt the breast and chest wall to closer reflect an ideal form and helps to hide these difficult anatomic variants with your very own fat.

Other women may prefer to avoid implants all together and in consultation with their surgeon may choose to enhance the shape and volume of the breast mound and chest wall in conjunction with a mastopexy with just fat grafting lone without implants. Just as implants have limitations so does fat grafting. The current art and science of the techniques of autologous fat grafting has a yield of around seventy percent sustainable take of the viable fat implanted into the tissues. This has been reproducible shown over many series of papers presented in the literature. Since fat is a very soft material that cannot resist significant opposing forces of the skin it is difficult to globally enhance a breast mound much larger than a cup to a cup and a half sizes larger in one session. Therefore a women who has a large skin envelope and very limited breast mound volume and desires to have a very full shape should not consider enhancement solely with fat alone. A combined implant with fat grafting provides a much better and stable result. In my experience fat grafting alone is best to sculpt and shape the cleavage and upper poles of the breast and chest wall interface. It can enhance the overall volume by a cup size as well. The other nice advantage of fat grafting for breasts is it allows the removal of unwanted fat volume from places like the flanks, abdomen, and thighs to achieve improved breast shape and sculpting of the body contour.

If you feel self-conscious about the appearance of your breast and feel it is disproportionate to the rest of the body and how you feel about yourself, consult a board certified plastic surgeon to define your goals and options for rejuvenating your breasts.

The mommy makeover-Is it right for you?

Being a mom is one of the most challenging, frustrating, yet rewarding experiences a woman can have. You put forth blood sweat and tears, not to mention an untold strain on your whole body during pregnancy. It really boils down to the genetics of your skin and fascia as to how well you can bounce back after the weight gain and abdominal stretching from your baby. Many women lament that despite dieting, exercising and lots and lots of willpower your body is never the same as it was prior to child bearing. Fortunately for the masses of dissatisfied women there are options in Plastic Surgery to boost your self- confidence and your body image. Here is a list of body corrections (Mommy Make-over) that can be performed in tandem or separately to improve the shape and how you feel about your physique.

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Breast:
During pregnancy the glandular component of the breast must enlarge to ready for the enhanced production of milk. Additionally weight gain with fat storage all governed by the hormonal changes can increase the breast size immensely. Unfortunately fetal regulation also makes skin “stretchy” to accommodate the increased girth of the breast and abdomen. After the resumption of normal non-pregnant hormones and the lack of need for lactation the breast volume will revert back to baseline and can even reduce in overall size compared to the original baseline. Unfortunately many times the skin does not have the ability to shrink to the original size and will stay expanded resulting in a larger skin brazier with same or even less fill than before resulting in “saggy” breast shape. With increased skin length from the breast fold to the nipple it moves the breast mound lower on the chest with less upper pole fullness. I hear many women call their breasts “sad” in appearance when they come in for consultation. Ok enough depressing thoughts… what can be done? If the skin is not excessively enlarged, the nipple-areolar complex is correct and the fold to nipple distance is not greatly elongated the solution can be to place a silicone gel implant to act as a shaper and a filler of the breast envelope restoring a pleasing breast shape. If the breast has a low positioned nipple-areolar complex, with or without increase skin length from the fold to the nipple-areolar complex, then a mastopexy (breast lift) is required. Often times tissue volume might need to be enhanced to provide better shape and upper pole fullness, thus an implant or fat grafting can be incorporated at the same time. Sometimes upper pole fullness can be accomplished by transposing extra breast tissue in the lower pole and positioning it on the chest wall deep to the rest of the breast to enhance fullness.

Abdomen:
Hormones during pregnancy direct adaptive body changes that allow healthy growth of the baby but unfortunately create lasting changes to a women’s body. The abdominal skin stretches and often can result in stretch marks (tears in the dermis with intact epidermis). Excess skin rarely retracts in these cases leading to hanging skin that drapes over the pelvis. Next the abdominal wall is distorted to accommodate the growing fetus resulting in separation of the paired rectus muscles leading to increased abdominal circumference with permanent bulges in the abdominal wall both above and below the umbilicus. This unfortunately cannot be reduced with abdominal exercise because the stretched fascia between the muscles is not contractile and will not respond to muscle strengthening. Additional weight changes with aging often can be manifested with increased abdominal girth from excess fatty tissue. So what can a Mommy Make-over achieve in the abdomen?
If skin quality is excellent and the abdominal wall is only minimally distorted often liposuction with the addition of additional energy sources such as ultrasonic energy (VASER), oscillating power hand-piece (PAL), or hydraulic power can result in removal of excess fat and create skin retraction/redistribution to improve contour. However, many women will need a full abdominoplasty with correction of excess fat with liposuction, removal of excess lower abdominal skin with tissue resection, and abdominal wall restoration by returning the rectus muscles together with a permanent suturing technique. This can result in excellent contour of the abdomen but you will trade the contour for a scar. I find most people are surprised how long the scar has to be to create the contouring necessary. Once acquainted with the results, most women will gladly trade a scar for the results of a flat smooth abdomen.

Back and Flanks:
Some women can realize their goals by correcting the anterior abdomen by itself. However many women if given the opportunity would love to three dimensionally correct their torso by sculpting their midback (bra line folds) and flanks (muffin tops) at the same time as their abdomens to circumferentially adjust their shape. This can make a tremendous change on how clothing can be worn and how the individual feels about themselves. Liposuction with either PAL or VASER makes a great deal of improvement by releasing all the ligamentous attachments between the back and flanks and the superficial skin (which results in rolls on the back) and allows even removal of fat and the skin to re-drape much smoother.

Legs:
Some women naturally store adipose tissue in their lateral or medial thighs. Depending on the skin quality and the potential for the tissue to re-drape or tighten, fatty tissue can be sculpted just as on the back. Some have significant adipose tissue below the knee down to the ankle. I generally do not add the additional power source with liposuction in this area and have achieved good results.

Buttock:
Popular trends in body shape can change just like in fashion over time. The introduction of the Latin culture into the United States in conjunction with pop culture personalities have made the appearance of a full contour buttock something to aspire to. My preference for buttock augmentation is with fat grafting and not with a prosthesis. Utilizing concepts of tissue equilibration and liposculpturing we can remove unwanted fatty tissue, harvest it as a graft, and utilize the fat as a volumizer of the buttock- while improving the contour of the rest of the body. Women who have gained and lost weight may have loose sagging skin of the buttock and restoring volume can shape and lift the buttock with little or no scarring.

Women who are unhappy with their physical appearance after giving birth to one or multiple children can restore the body to a better place with a Mommy Make-over. To me this represents more than one area of the body to be rejuvenated simultaneously to make the woman feel refreshed and erase some of the “battle scars” of pregnancy so she can feel more confident in her appearance.

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Notable updates from the 2016 Atlanta Breast Surgery Symposium

I recently attended the preeminent breast surgery meeting of the year, sponsored by the Southeastern Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (SESPRS). This was the 32nd annual gathering of international thought leaders in plastic surgery. Many new topics have been introduced at this symposium over the years and discussed at length prior to other meetings or journal articles making this a cutting-edge event. I always make time to attend this meeting to ensure that I am offering the most current surgical services for my patients.

Here’s what I gleaned from this year’s symposium:

Fat Grafting – Around a decade ago at this symposium a panel was organized with plastic surgeons, ethicists, lawyers, bio-engineers, oncologists, radiologists and general surgeons to contemplate the concept of moving forward with fat grafting to the breast to override the ban that the American Society of Plastic Surgeons had placed on this technique many years ago. Fortunately, this sparked the movement of our society and our best researchers to invest time and money into the field of plastic surgery. Certainly the clinical experience of utilizing fat grafting to provide shape and improve contours of the breast has been well documented at this meeting before. This year, additional data added further proof that this technique is here to stay.

Dr. Steve Kronowitz, from MD Anderson Cancer Center, presented data that fat grafting does not disrupt the diagnostics of mammography nor does it promote cancer growth in the breast that has been fat grafted. Furthermore, fat grafting maturity in the new recipient tissues stabilizes by four months. Dr. Kronowitz and others have demonstrated that injecting fat cells under badly damaged radiated skin can greatly improve and heal these tissues, although the actual mechanisms have not been fully elicited.

Dr. Louis Bucky, a noted fat-grafting expert from Philadelphia, has demonstrated that large volume fat grafting into areas which have experienced significant neurologic pain from either breast cancer surgery or multiple operations resulting in scaring can provide predictable relief from this pain. The pain relief is the result of delaminating scar tissue and providing fat in its place to avoid further scaring around nerves.

The takeaway from the symposium is that fat grafting in plastic surgery continues to grow in scope and popularity among surgeons and their patients.

New concept for breast reconstruction – Patients who elect to undergo breast reconstruction with implants historically have the devices placed under the pectoralis muscle with or without the use of an Acellular Dermal Matrix (ADM) extending the coverage of the device down to the fold. The muscle provides additional soft tissue coverage of the implant, blending its presence with the surrounding tissues. This approach also has demonstrated benefit in preventing capsular contracture.

The downside of this procedure is animation deformity, meaning that when the muscle is activated during exercise, it will contract and may greatly distort the breast. Also some women will be numb on the skin surface but will have sensation around the muscle and feel the implant movement at times, which can be bothersome. Lastly, during the early postoperative period, placing an implant under the muscle causes a significant amount of muscle spasm pain for a few weeks.

A new interesting concept is removing the muscle from the reconstruction equation by wrapping an ADM graft around the implant then suturing the ADM to the chest wall to stabilize the orientation of either the expander or a final implant without elevating the muscle. This approach mandates having reliable thick mastectomy skin flaps to cover the device with ADM.

A secondary procedure utilizing large-volume fat grafting to provide additional thickness of skin flaps and correct contour deformities is also required three months later. The advantage is quicker surgery time, less pain, no muscle animation issues and no abnormal feelings with the muscle. I plan to offer this to selected patients shortly.

Fat grafting versus filler agents: which is best for facial volume restoration?

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For many years, facial rejuvenation was limited to skin resurfacing with lasers and peels, and various surgical soft tissue repositioning procedures. However, our options have expanded with the understanding of muscle relaxation via neurotoxins such as Botox, and the evolution of our knowledge of how fat atrophy in the face leads to stereotypical architectural changes with aging. Plastic surgeons can now add volume to refresh the face. In order to achieve a youthful but natural appearance for my patients, I use a combination of muscle balancing, skin resurfacing and tightening as well as volume restoration. Ultimately, when the battle of gravity versus skin plays out over time, surgical repositioning is required.

Let’s examine the question of how best to restore volume in the face.

One option for facial volume restoration is off-the-shelf materials such as hyaluronic acid, in various structural manifestations, as a direct filler. Another option is a polymer of lactic acid (Sculptra), which acts as an inflammatory material inducing collagen synthesis to create a guided tissue volume additive over time. Both are easily administered in the office without any donor site pain or bruising. While these procedures are easy and safe, it takes experienced hands, eyes and judgement to achieve the best outcomes. Results can be expected to last up to two years.

Fat grafting is another source of filler material to restore volume to the face. Fat is easily harvested from the abdomen or the thighs to use in the face. The technique is a gentle form of liposuctioning which then requires a minimal amount of processing followed by reinjection into the desired locations. In the office setting under local anesthesia, patients may not enjoy some of the pressure sensations required to obtain the fat. In an effort not to injure the fat and to prevent fat from being injected into vessels, blunt cannulas are utilized to place the cells into the tissues. This technique causes some degree of pressure sensation as oppposed to a sharp small needle, which can inject off-the-shelf fillers. The advantage of fat is that it is cheaper to obtain than manufactured materials. In most cases, there is a relatively unlimited supply. Furthermore, peripheral stem cells may direct cellular differentiation leading to improved tissue quality.

Fat versus fillers

Fat is certainly more technically demanding and unforgiving. For injections around the eyes to smooth the eyelid cheek junction, I prefer hyaluronic acid. When injected smoothly with appropriate application, no lumps or bumps should occur. In the lips, when I am working to recreate vertical ridges of the phyltral columns of the upper lip and “Cupid’s bow” points as well as a nice rolled margin of the lip, I prefer hyaluronic acid, because it is the consistency of caulking material and can provide shape. Fat is soft, and does not exert force on the skin in the same way as fillers. However, recent research from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center demonstrates excellent results of restoring large volume loss of the upper lip beyond the vermillion by placing fat cells in a broad area making the loose skin less apparent.

With regard to the common area of deflation of the sub-malar fat pad in a non-surgical case, I prefer the highly crosslinked stiff material of Voluma which does an excellent job of re-supporting the facial structures to a more youthful position. If I am already performing a surgical case of a face or neck lift, I always add volume to the face prior to elevating the tissue; this is when I choose fat, because of the ease of harvest and injection under anesthesia. Some thin women may show very demarcated loss of volume in the temple area giving the face a skeletonized appearance around the eyes and making the brows seem to sag. This is an excellent indication for Sculptra. If the volume loss exceeds several vials worth of Voluma in the sub-malar fat pad per side, I also prefer to use Sculptra.

Fat grafting is an evolving technique in plastic surgery. Every industry conference has a significant discussion about the techniques and the science behind the results with just about every region of the body applicable to its uses, including face, breast, hand, buttock and other contour deformities. For the early stages of facial rejuvenation, which can occur in the third decade of life and beyond, much of the volume restoration is performed with off-the-shelf filler agents in an office setting due to ease and convenience.

It’s a case-by-case decision.

So when do you use fat versus fillers? It depends. It’s a case-by-case decision to determine the best protocol for each patient. I take a customized approach from the consult to the procedure, based on my unique skill set and my years of experience and training. My goal is to provide the absolute optimal results for each of my patients and to cultivate a lifetime relationship.

The bottom line on fat grafting

The buttock area has reached new levels of interest thanks to the influx of the Latin culture from South America and pop culture’s fixation on the shapely, self-absorbed Kardashians. Surgeons on the cutting edge of buttock enhancement choose to use fat grafting instead of buttock implants to avoid some very difficult complications.

Thanks in part due to Dr. Simeon Wall’s concept of tissue equilibration in body sculpting, tissue can be removed from areas of excess and transposed to areas of deficiency. For example, we can take excess areas like the muffin top and the lateral thigh and place that fat into the under-projected gluteal areas creating the idealized shape of the buttock both in terms of the outer framing and the projection.

The breast is another area where fat is very important. Most of the breast volume under the skin is composed of fat with small islands of glandular material dispersed throughout. With aging, volume in the breast is lost by glandular atrophy and some fat loss. Previously breast rejuvenation or enhancement was only thought of with augmentation via implants, with or without tissue repositioning such as a mastopexy. Today fat grafting is critical to achieving superior results. Research suggests that over 60% of breast augmentation procedures could be improved with the addition of fat grafting performed simultaneously.

Furthermore, fat that is harvested contains peripheral stem cells. The presence of stem cells in harvested fat has implications for rejuvenation medicine and the potential growth of tissue such as bone, skin, solid organs and bone marrow cells. Unfortunately, the art of marketing has outpaced science, and many clinicians are calling fat grafting to the face a “stem cell face lift.” This is a misleading statement. Much energy has been directed toward the understanding of the stem cell, but it’s not ready for prime time yet.

Plastic surgeons employ biologic tissue as our medium to create beautiful forms of living art. Fat is a wonderful way to sculpt the human body. It is truly like airbrushing imperfections in three dimensions.

Regardless of the Kardashians over-developed assets, fat grafting is worth the hype. Call 865.218.6210 today or go online to thelucascenter.com to schedule your consultation. I look forward to discussing with you the myriad of options for face, breast and buttock enhancement via fat grafting.

Turn back the clock with facial volume restoration

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As we age, the volume in our faces diminishes over time. However, in the right hands you can age gracefully and look as good as you feel for a long time, which is the goal I have for all my patients. Volume restoration of the face, as a part of an overall comprehensive facial rejuvenation algorithm, combined with skin resurfacing and tissue repositioning, can yield beautiful results.

The aging process causes fat volume reduction in the face. The fat in our faces is organized into discrete packages and, predictably, the fat found just below our cheekbone is one package which reduces in volume first. The combination of gravity and volume loss in cheek fat results in our faces changing shape. Our cheeks appear to decrease, and our skin drops. Cheek folds become more pronounced, creating the inevitable downward-turning at the corners of the mouth and contributing to the jowling effect in the lower jaw line.

Another area that can experience volume loss is the lateral forehead in the temple region, which results in the brows re-draping downward, causing a hooding effect and obscuring the upper eyelids. Still another indication important to women is the loss of volume of the lips and the relative loss of the three-dimensional appearance of the upper lip with increased vertical lines emanating from the red border.
The tear trough region around the lower eyelid can lose volume, regardless of your age, particularly if the eyelid fat pads are prominent with a relatively soft mid face projection.

All the above areas can be treated nicely with filler agents. The advantages of out-of-the-box filler agents is they can be used quite nicely with topical anesthetic agents in the office. There’s relatively little to no bruising and no downtime. Many filler agents contain hyaluronic acid, which is a naturally occurring agent in our skin that acts like glue to hold components of our dermis together. Denser material with lots of cross-linking can have a better effect of lifting tissue. Because of its dense properties, Voluma can last up to two years and is routinely placed in the area where the cheek fat packet decreases. This filler is used to lift the cheek back to a normal position, thus improving the cheek fold and the corners of the mouth.

Lips can be enhanced to normal volumes (not the duck lips that I see coming from various spas) to create a natural red lip border with the adjacent skin helping to eliminate the vertical lines. I also enhance the vertical pillars that span between the base of the nose and the cupids bow high points, which returns a three-dimensional appearance to the upper lip. I mostly utilize Juvederm for this area.

The tear trough deformity can be handled nicely with Restalyn or Juvederm to blend the eyelid cheek junction and smooth the appearance of the lower eyelid.

Volume restoration of the temples to return the brow to a more normal position can be best handled using a step-wise approach with Sculptra, which is an injectable form of a polymer of lactic acid. When introduced to the tissue, the lactic acid induces an inflammatory response leading to the formation of new collagen. The advantage of this material is that it can restore large areas of volume loss, which would be difficult with traditional filler agents. It also slowly builds up collagen and restores volume over a six-week period making your transformation less obvious to your friends and family.

Without question, the concept of volume restoration of the face as a part of an overall comprehensive facial rejuvenation algorithm has led to superior results compared to plans that did not include volume replacement. As with Botox, the overall value of the injection material is greatly dependent on who is administering the filler agent.

Poor technique can result in poor outcomes. I liken filler agents to sculpting materials for the face. You can put clay in front of a true artist who can transform this simple material into a work of art. An untrained eye with no sense of perspective or artistic skill will create very little value out of the raw materials. The same goes for these injectable products in the Wild Wild West of aesthetic services here in American and abroad.

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