Fat transfer is a procedure in which a medical team harvests cells from a patient’s fat tissue and injects them into another site. Some studies have shown that fat transfer may be beneficial for mitigating symptoms of osteoarthritis, cartilage defects, and ligament and tendon injuries. Fat contains cells, including pre-adipocytes, fibroblasts, vascular endothelial cells, and a variety of immune cells which have many natural reparative characteristics.
Clinicians will take fat tissue from a patient—usually from their abdomen or thigh—using an FDA-cleared device. Next, the harvested fat tissue undergoes gentle processing designed to cleanse and resize the tissue before it is transferred.
Doctors transfer the patient’s harvested fat into the targeted area, with the intent of supporting arthritic and injured tissues and promoting a healing environment.
Patients whose orthopedic conditions affect their active daily lives may be candidates for this procedure. But if you have an active infection and/or have not yet tried more standard treatment, you may not yet qualify for fat transfer.
The use of adipose tissue has been well documented in literature for regenerative medicine and other healing applications, but individual results vary depending on a variety of factors. To learn whether fat transfer is a suitable treatment for you, talk to your physician. They will be able to help determine your candidacy and take any next steps.
Unfortunately, insurance companies do not cover fat transfer because it is considered an experimental treatment. Please discuss the associated fees with your treatment team.
Fat transfer has a good safety profile. However, as with many procedures, there are some potential risks and complications. These may include:
If you’re preparing for fat transfer, please stop taking any anti-inflammatory medications, including NSAIDs and steroids, 1 to 2 weeks before your procedure. Do not restart anti-inflammatory medications for at least 4 to 6 weeks after your procedure is complete.
If you take blood thinners, including aspirin, you will need to discuss potentially stopping this medication with your physician.
Please discuss the safety of stopping any medication with your prescribing physician prior to doing so.
The entire fat transfer procedure takes about 2 hours. This includes time for pre-procedure discussion, procedure setup, and the procedure itself. There is no hospital stay needed, because the procedure is done in an outpatient setting. Please arrange for a licensed driver to meet you after the procedure and drive you home.