Fat Transfer For Acne Scars

Acne Scars, Fat Transfer At A Glance

  • Best Results1-3+ sessions
  • Treatment Recovery0-8 days
  • Procedure Time30 to 60 min
  • Skin SpecialistDermatologist
  • Duration of ResultsMany years
  • AnaestheticTopical, gas or light sedation
  • Back to WorkNext Day- 7 days
  • Cost$$ - $$$

Fat Transfer For Acne Scars

Fat transfer is also known as fat grafting. Stem cell transfer is essentially transfer of fat cells known as adipocytes along with growth factors to distant sites. The advantage of fat transfer is that we are using your own cells to replace deficits in other areas of the body, including facial volume & atrophic acne scars.

FactsFacts on Fat Transfer for Acne Scars

  • Fat contains cells to provide volume
  • Fat also contains stem cells
  • Stem cells can give rise to collagen producing cells
  • Fat is harvested from sites such as the abs, flank & legs
  • Resorption of fat is variable, ranging from 15% to 60%
  • The number of sessions varies from one to three

What is fat transfer?

In a nutshell fat transfer or grafting takes fat cells from fat rich areas such as the abdomen & flanks, transferring the donor to fat poor areas of the face.

In the context of acne scars, atrophy (holes, divots, depression) can be classed as primary dermal (easy to treat with microneedling, RF, lasers, peels, stamping), primarily hypodermal/ subdermal/ subcutaneous (harder to treat). For deeper scars that lack collagen & fat, building blocks such as dermal fillers or fat is required to ‘fill up’ the depressions. Transferring fat is one such way of filling up facial depressions.

What type of acne scars are amenable to fat transfer?

Fat transfer is primarily aimed at improving deep atrophic acne scars. This pattern of scarring is best visualised with angled lighting. There are two types of atrophy, superficial atrophy, namely pick & boxcar scars, & deep subcutaneous atrophy, usually associated with rolling scars & marked tethering. Fat transfer is ideal for the latter.

The cheek, temples & perioral (around the mouth) are my most frequent fat transfer sites.

What are the advantages of fat transfer?

Longevity, natural autologous donor (your own cells) & theoretical transfer of fat cells with naturally occuring stem cells are the major advantages of fat grafting.

Once the graft establishes past the 16-20 week mark, in the majority of cases results will be long lasting. As the donor is your own fat, allergies & reactions do not occur.

Fat transfer without centrifugation also preserves your body’s stem cells. These stem cells can proliferate to become collagen producing cells such as fibroblasts. Growth factors harvested from the donor site can theoretically benefit scar tissue & improve skin quality.

Can fat transfer increase collagen?

Fat transfer also transfers stem cells, along with adipocytes (fat cells). In theory ASCs or adipose stem cells can differentiate to form keratocytes (skin cells), fibroblasts (collagen producing cells), endothelial cells (vessels), adipocytes (fat cells) & many more cell lineages. The amount of actual tissue produced from ASCs can not be quantified, nor can they be predicted at this moment in time. Most patients get some improvement in skin quality which can be attributed to stem cells- especially in the context of micro, or nano-fat transfer. The latter is devoid of adipose tissue.

Davin’s Viewpoint on Fat Transfer

Time to re-explore this after a decade. Initial efforts of fat transfer was more miss than hit. Why? Because until recently, the exact formula for transfer or fat grafting was unknown. Today we know the science of increasing graft survivability including extraction techniques, processing & transfer. The process is still not 100%, however survival rates for fat cells have certainly improved.

Fat can be used to treat atrophic scars, primarily cheeks, around the mouth & in the temples. Once past the initial ‘take-up’ stage, results are relatively predictable in the context of longevity. I do believe the next 10-20 year will be exciting as we figure out how to incorporate stem cells into the mix. In some cases I employ a dilution of collagen stimulating dermal fillers to further amplify the remodelling process.

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