HealthWatch: Enhancing Looks By Recycling Fat

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — The latest kind of recycling does not involve paper, plastics, or old clothes: it involves your very own fat. Doctors in the Bay Area are taking fat where you don’t want it and putting it where you do.

Ginger Copes dealt with a flat chest for most of her life. “I was teased a lot as a child”, exclaimed the Modesto woman.

So Copes got breast implants, but the scar tissue created a problem: a big dent on one breast.

“It was probably gosh two inches, indented maybe a quarter of an inch, to a half-inch. It was definitely visible with a bathing suit,” Copes recalled.

She fixed the problem with a unique solution, called fat grafting or fat transfer. The idea: a doctor takes fat from a part of your body where you do not want it and puts it where you do.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Steven Williams of Tri Valley Plastic Surgery in Dublin specializes in the procedure.

“Most of our patients are bothered by the midsection, the love handles, the muffin top,” Williams said. “And the concept is: using liposuction techniques transferring the fat, processing it then transplanting it back into the body in areas where they do. The breasts the buttocks, or the face.”

Dr. William’s most popular fat transfer procedure is known as the Brazilian Butt Lift.
That’s when a patient’s own fat is trimmed away from, say, the belly or thighs in order to enhance the derriere.

When the right technique is used, the transplanted fat develops its own blood supply and stays put.

“The secret to getting good fat survival is very small volumes in very precise areas,” explained Williams.

With Copes, Williams performed liposuction and took fat from her belly, and injected it into her breast, filling in the dent, even sculpting the shape.

Copes said she feared that she would have large scars, but exclaimed she had “itty, bitty, tiny scars.”

Fat transfers cost more than implants. However, Williams said they feel more natural and cause fewer infections.

“Where we can, we really like to use fat because it is your own body and it feels just like breast tissue,” said the doctor.

As for Copes, she got a firmer belly and a more womanly figure.

“I got kind of it a double deal, a double deal out of it. That’s how I looked at it,” she said, laughing.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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