Fat Grafting Recovery: Things You Need To Know Following Your Procedure

One of the biggest concerns in our busy workaday America is “What is my recovery like after fat grafting?”  This is something that I will try to explore in this brief article to help prepare a prospective patient who is interested in having this procedure done with me.  One word of caution:  this description only refers to my patients and not to other surgeons who practice this art.  I truly believe that my recovery times are a fraction of other surgeons who do this procedure for a variety of reasons.  First, I tend to use much less fat to get similar if not better results.  I do not overfill a face to attain long-term results.  Second, I have my patient under deep sedation during the procedure so that I do not need any anesthetic injections, which can truly bloat and bruise the face.  Third, I manage bruising with a laser at a week that most of my colleagues are unaware of.

Fat Grafting Recovery Time:
Despite all of these benefits, there is still a real recovery period following a fat grafting procedure by me.  First and foremost is swelling.  The swelling for the first week is significant and you will not be socially or professionally ready to see others.  There is great improvement in most cases between the 7th and 10th day but you are still not ready for prime time.  Most people who have very little time off from work take a week off with preferably two flanking weekends.  Those who can afford 2 weeks off are even better positioned to return to work.  However, this is very uncommon, as most people simply do not want to take that much time off.  I typically say in a conservative way that “at 1 week no one will like it, at 2 weeks you will not like it but someone else will probably like it, and at 3 weeks everyone should like it.”  Obviously, this is not always the case and should be tempered with the idea that recovery is variable but more importantly our perception of that recovery is even more highly variable.

The patient is shown before, 1 week after and 1.5 years after a single session of fat grafting.

Another factor that will lead to swelling is how much fat I put into the face.  For someone who is in her late 30s, she will probably swell a lot less than someone in her late 70s, who needs per force more fat transferred.  Also, one’s health can factor into it.  A heavy smoker who is out of shape and who eats a terrible diet filled with processed food and tons of salt may have a harder time than someone who is physically fit and maintains a good diet.  What you do that first week also matters.  You can work out so long as you do not do a lot of bending over, household chores, and gardening that can lead to more pronounced swelling.  In addition, if you are eating a heavy salty diet (as mentioned), this can lead to more swelling.

Top 10 Fat Transfer Recovery Concerns:
The top 10 concerns that I have heard expressed by my patients regarding their first week will be covered here to alleviate any stress (something that I verbally repeat to my patients the night following the procedure):

  1. My face looks too full- this is normal.
  2. My cheeks feel very firm and hard- this will go away in a few weeks.
  3. My chin feels lumpy inside my mouth- this will go away in a few weeks.
  4. My face looks uneven or asymmetrical- this is normal and is due to swelling.
  5. My lips look too thin- this is normal and will go away.
  6. My lines around my mouth look deeper- this is normal and will go away in a few weeks if it occurs (which is not that commonly).
  7. I cannot smile normally, or it is hard for me to smile- this is normal and as the areas of transplantation soften, it will go away.
  8. I am swelling more after 2 days- this is normal.
  9. I look like a Neanderthal- the brows will settle and soften out after a week or two.
  10. My swelling changes to better and worse from day to day- this is normal and can happen.

I will try to help prepare you for the recovery but the good thing about a fat grafting recovery is that there is typically very little discomfort except in the harvested areas that can be a bit sore like you worked out (and unfortunately the areas of harvesting can be quite bruised for a while too.)  I always try to offer my patients 24/7 phone support if there are any questions or concerns.  I truly believe that the long-term results are so outstanding that the recovery of the week or two of swelling is well worth the investment.

Follow the links to learn more about Dr Lam’s fat transfer procedures, including before and after photos, videos, and FAQs, or call 972.312.8188 to schedule a consultation .