Fat grafting has exploded in popularity recently. In 2010, the number of fat grafting procedures increased by more than 26% over 2009 (ASAPS 2010 survey results). And why not? If you need an area plumped up, your own fat won’t be rejected by your body and has the added benefit of getting a little liposuction done at the same time.

So, are the recent claims true? That banking your fat for the future allows you to access your youthful cells even as you continue to age true? How exactly do you save your fat for the future? And what are the boring, dreary, geeky details related to it? I will stand at the lecture podium and tell you! And don’t nod off!

  • How to harvest fat?
  • How to freeze fat?
  • What to freeze it in?
  • How long will it last while frozen?
  • How viable is it after you thaw it out and stick it inside me?

How to harvest fat?

It’s important to harvest the fat gently, with liposuction. There isn’t any documented research on how forcefully to suction it out, the optimal diameter of the liposuction cannulae, or any other surgical details. However, you generally do not want too much heat or too much trauma, because many surgeons believe that this will cause the fat cells to break up.

How to freeze fat?

Unfortunately, it’s going to be a little bit more complex and more expensive than just throwing your fat into a Coleman cooler before taking it home to your Whirlpool deep freezer. Fat cells need to be frozen in a controlled, careful and gradual process. There are several protocols, and to my extensive literature review, there’s not really a single protocol that’s too much better than another one – yet.

What to freeze it in?

There are several chemicals which have been shown to increase fat cell viability. Your fat should be preserved in these chemicals to get the most long-term viability after your frozen fat has been thawed out. The chemical names include DSMO and others.

I don’t think the question of whether these chemicals are actually safe for you, even in very tiny concentrations, has ever been addressed. When I liposuction fat and then immediately reinject it into the patient’s body, the only chemicals I use are numbing medicine and saline solution. Both of these liquids have a long, strong history of safety in the human body, and both have been shown to be processed and metabolized in the human body.

How long will it last while frozen?

It’s unclear exactly how long fat cells will last when they are frozen. Most studies have investigated fat viability in terms of months and not years. I am not aware of any study that is statistically significant that has looked at fat cell viability after, say, 5-10 years.

How viable is it after you thaw it out and stick it inside me?

Again, this is a bit nebulous. Animal studies show that “most” fat remains viable, with percentages ranging from 50% up to 90%. But these studies vary wildly depending on how old the fat is, what chemicals were used to store the fat, etc.

Banking your fat for future use is a nice idea, but its effectiveness and safety has not been fully evaluated. In the meantime, we’ve all got plenty of fresh fat at our disposal.

If you’d like more information on Fat Grafting, please contact Caroline, our Patient Care Coordinator.  She can be reached at 415 362 1846 or

Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below.


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