Fat Transfer

Consultations offered at our four convenient locations in La Jolla, San Diego, Newport Beach and Beverly Hills

Fat transfer, also referred to as fat grafting, is a surgical procedure in which fat is removed from one area of the body and reinjected into another for enhancement or augmentation. Often performed during other common cosmetic procedures, it is a safe alternative to implants. Whether you are receiving a breast augmentation or a facelift that involves increasing the volume of your features, fat transfer can be performed for many reasons. Dr. Richard Chaffoo and Dr. Susan Stuart of La Jolla Plastic Surgery and Dermatology work together as renowned plastic surgeon and cosmetic dermatologist respectively. If you are interested in seeing if fat transfer is for you, consider scheduling a consultation at one of our beautiful facilities in La Jolla, San Diego, Newport Beach, and Beverly Hills by calling (800) 373-4773 or filling out this form.

All About Autologous Fat Grafting

When undergoing many different kinds of cosmetic procedures, patients can easily also receive liposuction to remove excess fat. If the surgeon is performing liposuction, it is a great time to plan ahead and perform a fat transfer as well if the patient wishes to do so. Fat is natural soft tissue that can be used as filler, sometimes even to replace damaged tissue, with a very low possibility of rejection since it is autologous (of the same individual) unlike implants. (1) Particularly in women, the body can store large amounts of excess fat in places you might not want it, and it can also lose fat in the places you do. This is influenced heavily by genetics and lifestyle, but fat transfer with liposuction can be an effective solution.

Fat Harvesting Methods

In order for the fat to be transferred, it must first be harvested. There have been many different methodologies throughout the years, but the most common method to harvest fat is with liposuction. Liposuction is performed using a small cannula (hollow tube) connected to a machine that separates and suctions fat cells from the body. Some of the most common liposuction areas are: (2)

  • Abdomen
  • Thighs
  • Flanks
  • Arms
  • Knees
  • Chin

There is much discourse on the types and sizes of cannulas used, the amount of pressure applied, and whether or not including sterile saline fluid in the process of liposuction increases or decreases the graft quality.

The other two ways fat cells may be removed are through manually using a syringe or through surgical excision. If fat is removed by excision, the surgeon uses a device that “punches” the fat out into cores, allowing the integrity of the fat cells to stay intact and leading to better chances of the graft surviving. Syringe extraction allows the surgeon to have complete control over where the fat is removed using very gentle, manual movements with a syringe. (2)

Fat Processing Methods

In order to safely reintroduce fat cells into a new part of the body, they must be processed and separated from other tissues extracted in the harvesting process. If it is not isolated from the blood, debris, and collagen fibers, the patient experiences inflammation after injection that could affect the health of the graft.

There are four common methods of processing fat cells before transfer: sedimentation, filtering, washing, and centrifugation. There has been much success with centrifugation, which entails spinning the removed fat tissue at very high speeds to separate the fat cells from the other substances. Alternatively, it can also be washed in sterile saline solution. (2)

Reinjection of Fat Cells

Once the fat cells have been prepared, the surgeon then injects them into the area being enhanced in small amounts over time. The injections are fanned out and slowly administered, allowing for good blood flow and better chances of fat cell survival. This stage of the process is also widely debated. Some think the size of the cannula affects this step the most, whereas others find there is little difference. The main goal during this step is to preserve the fat cells, something made difficult by their molecular makeup. (3)

Benefits of Fat Transfer

Fat transfer procedures are complicated, yet very effective and useful for patients looking to contour and enhance their bodies in one surgery. It is a highly customizable solution to multiple different cosmetic concerns.

The benefits of fat transfer surgery include:

  • Natural augmentation results with little chance of rejection
  • Highly customizable and personalized
  • Permanent solution to volume loss, unlike implants or fillers
  • To sculpt the body and add shape
  • Can be performed on the face, breasts, buttocks, hips, etc.

Ideal Candidates

To be considered a good candidate for fat transfer, you must first have enough excess fat available to be harvested. If there are certain areas of your body you wish to enhance, sculpt, or add structure to, but you don’t like the idea of getting implants or synthetic fillers, then a fat transfer procedure could be the answer. Depending on the area you are trying to enhance, there are many qualifications to consider. The beauty of fat transfers is that it can be performed and combined with many cosmetic procedures.

Personal Consultation

With their combined decades of experience, Dr. Chaffoo and Dr. Stuart strive to give their patients the care they deserve. During your private consultation, Dr. Chaffoo asks diligent questions to understand your specific needs. He explains in great detail the procedure process and what role fat transfer will have within it. Before you go in for this appointment, make sure to have prepared your health history, including past surgeries and any serious health concerns you may have or have had in the past. It is at this point that you will schedule any post-operative checkup appointments as well, so you can be as ready as possible to successfully heal.


Liposuction is a moderately invasive technique, sometimes performed with the patients under sedation or anesthesia. To prepare for your procedure, we recommend appointing a trusted family member or friend to take you home after the surgery. It is helpful to also pick up any prescriptions that Dr. Chaffoo writes beforehand so you can focus on your recovery without worry.

We will require you to stop the use of all tobacco products for at least six weeks before your procedure. This accompanied with refraining from taking NSAIDs or blood thinning medications helps reduce your risks of excess bleeding during and after your surgery.

Fat Transfer Procedures

Breast Augmentation

Often performed with the addition of implants, breast augmentation can also utilize fat transfer to enhance breast size and shape. Dr. Chaffoo performs liposuction to designated areas, whether that be the abdomen or elsewhere, to extract fat. The fat is then cleaned and reinjected into the breast for slight, more natural change. Fat grafting can be very successful for breast augmentation, supplying a cheap and effective alternative to silicone or saline implants.

Brazilian Butt Lift

This procedure is famous for its use of fat transfer to enhance the buttock. During a Brazilian butt lift, Dr. Chaffoo once again performs liposuction, but this time the extracted fat is reintroduced to the buttock area. This method is preferred over the use of implants because of the natural and noticeable effects. Particularly in the buttock area, implants can appear very obvious and too round, whereas fat transfer allows for a much more realistic augmentation of the bottom.

Fat Transfer During Facelift Procedures

A facelift is very often performed with the inclusion of fat transfer to add volume to the face. Although facelifts are usually performed to remove stubborn fat from the chin and neck area, Dr. Chaffoo can also transfer autologous fat to the face to fill pockets near the cheeks and under the eyes. Aging can bring with it loss of volume in the face, and to achieve a more youthful look, sometimes adding that volume back in is the best option. This can also be achieved with the addition of dermal fillers, but successful fat transfer is more permanent than injectables.

If you are interested in fat transfer or want to know more about possible procedures performed at La Jolla Plastic Surgery and Dermatology, check out our blog!

Recovery and Results of Fat Transfer

Depending on your specified donor sight and which procedure you undergo, the recovery period for this surgery can vary. If you undergo a breast augmentation or buttock lift, your recovery will take much longer than if you receive a facelift. Expect to take at least one week off of work no matter what. Results of fat transfer can be both immediately noticeable or can show up later on in your healing process. This will be determined by the type of procedure performed and the success of the fat transfer itself. Though successful fat transfer is considered permanent, your results can change if you experience any significant weight changes. To continue to see your results, be sure to introduce a nutritious diet and exercise routine into your schedule after you have fully recovered.

How Much Does Fat Transfer Cost in Southern California?

Dr. Chaffoo will be sure to discuss all cost possibilities with you during your consultation. To schedule an appointment, please call (800) 373-4773 or fill out this form at your earliest convenience.


  1. Fontes T, Brandão I, Negrão R, Martins MJ, Monteiro R. Autologous fat grafting: Harvesting techniques. Annals of Medicine and Surgery. 2018;36:212-218. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amsu.2018.11.005
  2. Simonacci F, Bertozzi N, Grieco MP, Grignaffini E, Raposio E. Procedure, applications, and outcomes of autologous fat grafting. Annals of Medicine and Surgery. 2017;20:49-60. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amsu.2017.06.059
  3. Gir P, Brown SA, Oni G, Kashefi N, Mojallal A, Rohrich RJ. Fat Grafting. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 2012;130(1):249-258. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/prs.0b013e318254b4d3