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Structural Fat Grafting for Head and Neck Reconstruction

Structural fat grafting is a procedure that transfers fat from one or more areas of your body and places it elsewhere. It can be used for many different areas on your body.

The procedure can be used for reconstructive purposes on your head and neck. Its purposes for the head and neck include:

  • Correcting deformities from injuries, surgeries, medication, radiation, burns, or chemicals.
  • Improving appearance of congenital facial conditions affecting the head and neck, such as Treacher Collins Syndrome.
  • Correcting skull abnormalities from injuries or brain surgery.
  • Fixing asymmetry caused by surgery, neurological problems, facial paralysis, radiation, and chemotherapy.
  • Covering scars from thermal and chemical burns.

Is Structural Fat Grafting Right for Me?

Structural fat grafting places fat exactly where it’s needed to shape the skull and face. If you have abnormalities with the shape of your head or neck, this procedure might be an option for you.

What Are the Risks of Fat Grafting?

The complications of structural fat grafting are rare, but they can include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infections
  • Scarring
  • Irregularities
  • Placing too much or too little fat
  • Swelling
  • Bruising

The surgical team will work to reduce the potential for such problems.

Before the Procedure

Before your procedure, a staff member will explain structural fat grafting and review your medical history. You can review photos of similar procedures.

We ask that you bring photos of yourself from the past so our surgical team knows the look you want to restore.

A staff member also will take photos of how you look now. Your surgeon will use those photos to get a plan for the procedure, including where fat will be taken from and placed.

Structural Fat Grafting Procedure Details

The surgical team will mark the harvest and graft sites with colored pens on the day of the procedure. Depending on the amount of fat needed, the surgeon may use more than one donor site.

The surgeon uses liposuction by hand to harvest the fat. The fat then goes through a centrifuge, which removes components like oil, water, and blood to get the fat ready for grafting.

The surgeon will place the fat in tiny amounts at a time in the graft location, sculpting it for a natural look.

How Long Does the Procedure Take?

The time of the procedure varies based on the amount of fat being harvested and grafted. Usually it lasts anywhere between two and five hours.

Type of Anesthesia for Fat Grafting

The surgical team usually uses general anesthesia for structural fat grafting. In more minor cases, surgeons can use local anesthesia with sedation.

Recovery from Structural Fat Grafting

The recovery process from structural fat grafting depends on the size of the procedure. That includes how many donor sites are used and how large the graft site is.

You will have swelling and bruising in both the donor and graft sites. The graft sites usually heal more quickly, with swelling and bruising mostly going away within two to three weeks. Swelling in the donor sites can take three to six months to completely go away.

What Results Can I Expect from Structural Fat Grafting?

Fat can be a volatile tissue, and there are no current studies for fat survival rates in humans. However, structural fat grafting can correct several problems in the head and neck and has shown positive results.

Structural fat grafting places the fat where it’s needed, and the surgeon can sculpt it to the correct shape. Because of that, the procedure works better for the head and neck than implants. Stem cells present in fat also can help promote healing in the affected areas.

Structural fat grafting should be able to correct abnormalities on your head and neck, giving them a fuller appearance.