Although some practices will allow nurses or technicians to perform facial augmentation with fat transfer (also known as facial fat grafting), only surgeons can perform this procedure at the Hilger Face Center in Minneapolis, MN. Our physicians are board-certified facial plastic surgeons with years of experience performing cosmetic and reconstructive facial plastic surgeries. Learn more about the benefits of facial fat grafting, who it is best for, and how it is performed. Fat transfer is often combined with other procedures that address other signs of facial aging. While fat transfer will add volume, correcting facial laxity with other procedures such as a facelift, eyelid lift or brow lift can create a more comprehensive, natural improvement. Similarly skin resurfacing can improve superficial wrinkles at the same time as volume correction.


Wrinkles and dark spots are just two examples of the signs of aging that can develop on the face. Another part of getting older, for many people, is losing volume from the face, usually in the cheek area.

Alternatively known as facial fat grafting, cheek fat grafting, cheek liposculpture or cheek microfat augmentation, facial augmentation with fat transfer seeks to restore some of the volume lost in the face. The result is a fuller, more youthful look.

During facial augmentation with fat transfer, the surgeon first harvests fat from one area of the patient’s body, such as the thighs or tummy. The fat is then purified and processed so that it can be injected into the cheek area through small micro cannulas.


An ideal candidate for facial fat grafting is a person is who is experiencing volume loss due to aging. Some people naturally have little volume in their cheek area even when they are young, but such people are usually better served by other facial augmentation surgeries, such as cheek implants.

Facial fat grafting is a two-part surgery that is usually performed in an ambulatory surgical center. The first phase of the procedure involves extracting the fat from the patient’s body. The second phase is injecting the fat into the facial area. In both areas, the surgical approach to harvest and place the fat is performed through incisions less than 1/8 inch long.

Often, the procedure is performed under either sedation or general anesthesia. It can take up to an hour to inject the fat into the cheek area. How much of the fat will remain in the treated area and how much will be reabsorbed by the body can be difficult to predict. Some patients decide to have a second procedure performed, later on, to replace any fat that the body absorbed.

After fat transfer, recovery can take up to a week. It’s common for people to have some mild discomfort as well as some bruising in the injection areas.

Fat transfer is the process of harvesting fat from one part of the body and injecting it into another area. The goal of fat transfer is to increase volume and fullness in the treated area. Facial fat grafting is just one example of fat transfer and may be combined with other areas of liposuction to reduce areas such as under the chin.

You may be a good candidate for facial augmentation with fat grafting if you are in good health and have experienced a loss of facial volume to due to aging. If you feel that you look tired or older than you really are due to a loss of volume in the cheek area, fat transfer can not only restore fullness to the face, it can also help you feel more confident.

There are cases when a younger patient, who has little facial volume due to congenital conditions, might be a good candidate for fat transfer. But it’s often more likely that younger patients are better served by more permanent facial augmentation options, such as cheek implants.

It’s common for facial fat transfer to be performed in a surgical center, rather than in an office setting.

Often, fat transfer to the face takes less than one hour. The procedure is a two-part process–the first part involves harvesting the fat and the second part involves placing the fat in the desired area.

The type of anesthesia your surgeon will use depends on the complexity of the procedure. Often, sedation is used if facial augmentation with fat transfer is performed on its own. If you are combining fat transfer with other surgeries, it’s more likely that your surgeon will administer general anesthesia during the procedures.

During the fat harvesting phase of the process, the surgeon will make very small, 3mm incisions in the area where the fat is donated. These incisions are usually small enough that any scars are practically invisible. When the surgeon injects the fat into the facial area, he or she uses a microcannula, which creates a very small puncture that does not need to be sutured and leaves an invisible scar.

The fat used during fat transfer does come from the patient’s own body, usually from the tummy or thigh area. For that reason, a patient needs to have sufficient extra fat on the body to allow a small amount to be harvested.

Because of the risk of rejection, fat from other people isn’t used during facial grafting. Using your own fat also reduces the risk of an allergic reaction.

During the first part of the surgery, your surgeon will give you either the sedative or general anesthetic. He or she will then make a small incision in the donor area and will use a very small cannula, or tube, to remove the right amount of fat.

After harvesting the fat, the surgeon will process and prepare it for injection. The preparation process often involves purifying the fat, so that it can be safely injected into the body.

Dr. Hilger and Dr. Lyford-Pike prefer to use a technique known as cross-hatching when injecting the fat. Using a very fine cannula, they inject the fat in several directions, creating a smoother, more uniform augmentation. The cross-hatching technique also reduces the chance that creases or ridges will develop.

After the fat is harvested, the incisions are closed, if necessary, using absorbable sutures. Since the injection sites are so small, no sutures or closures are needed.

Due to a combination of swelling and general discomfort, many patients find that they benefit from taking about a week off from work. For the most part, you can manage any discomfort experienced after the surgery with an over-the-counter pain reliever. Your surgeon can prescribe a stronger medicine if needed.

You can take a short, easy walk the day after your facial augmentation procedure. In fact, it’s recommended that you participate in light physical activity as soon as possible after the surgery.

More vigorous workouts and exercises should be avoided for at least 10 days afterwards.

It can take some time before you see the final results from your fat transfer surgery. Usually, your surgeon will overfill the area, as it’s expected that some of the fat will be reabsorbed by the body. The overfilling combined with swelling right after surgery can mean it will be at least seven to 10 days before you can really see the results

Risks and complications after facial fat transfer tend to be very rare, especially when the procedure is performed by a trained, board-certified facial plastic surgeon. There is a risk for infection and for changes in sensation after injection, but neither complication has ever been seen at the Hilger Face Center.