We use very specialized techniques to process that fat into different particle sizes. Traditional fat transfer methods may be fine for implantation into buttocks or breasts, but facial fat transfer requires extra processing to break the fat down into the proper particle sizes. Micronized fat is ideal for adding volume to the face without creating lumps or over filling. For fine tuning, we need to process the fat into even smaller particles called Nano-fat. When treating delicate areas like under the eyes, the nano-fat technique allows us to deliver superior results with very little risk of unwanted lumpiness.
Q: How is SCEFI different from a regular fat transfer? A: There are many different methods of performing a fat transfer. The simplest and cheapest way is to just aspirate the fat with a syringe and inject it back in. The problem with this method is that most of the fat cells are destroyed and there are a lot of debris that create a hostile environment for the delicate fat cells. The end result is, that some or all of the fat does not take resulting in possible unevenness and lumpiness. With SCEFI, we use a gentle pneumatic vibration to break up the fat into tiny microscopic droplets. This is what we call "micronization." Because the vibration is very gentle, the fat cells remain intact and the micronized fat can be removed with a small bore, blunt cannula under low suction. This method makes the whole process much easier on the patient. With SCEFI we remove more fat than is needed for the transplantation so that we can extract stem cells from the extra fat. Although there are stem cells present within the transplanted fat, adding additional stem cells greatly increases the survival of the transplanted fat. The stem cells stimulate new blood supplies and new collagen to form in the site which creates a noticeable improvement in skin texture and quality. SCEFI is currently the most sophisticated way of performing a fat transfer. There are only a handful of physicians in the country who perform a fat transplant in this way. Other physicians are calling this a "stem cell face lift."
Q: What kind of down time can I expect? A: There will be some swelling and possible bruising of the face. Most people will look better than they did within 1 week of the procedure. For some people the recovery will be quicker and for others, it may be longer. Stopping medications and supplements that can thin your blood like aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, and fish oil can help minimize the risk of bruising. Starting arnica montana supplements a week before can also help minimized bruising and swelling. There are no cutting or stitches involved, so the healing is much easier than from a traditional face lift. You will have some drainage from the harvest site for about 24 hours. Again, there are no stitches involved, but you will need to change the dressing a few times during the first 24 hours, then a simple bandaid will be sufficient. You can shower the next day but we recommend no baths, hot tubs of swimming for one week. If a full liposuction is performed at the same time, you will need to wear a compression garment to maximize the results from the liposuction.
Q; Can I drive myself home after the procedure? A: Because there is no general anesthesia involved, many patients choose to drive themselves to and from the procedure. However, we do recommend having a driver if possible because, if you would like to take a little anti anxiety medication for the procedure, we will not be able to let you drive.
Q: Is it painful? A: We use a technique called tumescent anesthesia to harvest the fat. That means we infuse saline with a numbing agent called lidocaine into the area. This makes the area numb so that you will not feel pain, but you will feel some tugging and pinching as well as a vibration. Most people do not find this to be uncomfortable at all. Some people do get ticklish from the vibration, that's why we call it "tickle lipo." We use a very thin blunt needle to inject the fat back into your face. We strategically numb certain areas of your face to make it more comfortable for you. Some people do find this part a little uncomfortable, but most people tolerate it very well.
Q: How long do the results last? A: We are transferring living fat cells from one area of your body to another. Once the fat cells take root, they will stay there indefinitely. With our SCEFI technique, the survival rate of the transplanted fat is over 90%. This is significantly better than the 50% or less that most people get with traditional fat transfers. After 3 months, the transplanted fat that remains will stay and act like fat anywhere else in your body. If you lose weight, the implanted fat may shrink and then enlarge if you you gain weight. The transplanted fat will not go away like fillers. As you age you may want to add more fat or fillers to compensate for skin laxity. Q: How many treatments do I need? A: One treatment is enough for most people. If you are older or if you need more substantial volume replacement, you will need a second treatment in about 6 months.
Q: Why don't you just put all the fat in in one treatment? A: Most of the time, we do treat to full correction, but if too much fat is placed in one treatment, most of the the fat will not take and you will lose it anyway. The fat cells will actually compete for the blood supply.
Q: Is there a charge for a second treatment? A: Yes, a repeat treatment within 6 months of the initial fat transfer will be at a reduced rate, but there is a charge.
Q: Are stem cell treatments legal? A: Yes, our method of harvesting and processing stem cells is in complete compliance with the current laws in the United States. Our method of in-vivo separation without the use of enzymes makes it in compliance with the FDA restriction of not being more than minimally manipulated. This means that, unlike many other stem cell clinics, we do not require you to travel Mexico or overseas for your treatment.
Q: Are adipose derived stem cells as good as stem cells from bone marrow? A: Bone marrow derived stem cells are best for regenerating blood cells after chemotherapy. The most recent studies show that adipose derived stem cells are superior to bone marrow for regenerating skin, collagen, bone, cartilage, tendons, hair and fat.
Q: Why doesn't my plastic surgeon do stem cell enhanced fat transfers? A: Soon, this method will probably be the gold standard but currently we are one of a small group of pioneers who have made the investment in the equipment and training necessary to perform this procedure. In fact, Dr. Song is involved in training doctors from around the country and around the world.
Q: Are stem cell treatments safe? A: The fat and stem cells used in this treatment come from your own body and nothing is done to change their inherent nature. Unlike organ transplants from a different donor, your body will not reject your own tissue so there is no risk of graft vs host or host vs graft reactions. No immunosuppressants are needed and you don't even have to worry about allergic reactions to your own tissue. There is a small risk of having a reaction to the medications used for numbing, but nothing even close to the risk of general anesthesia. The risk of infection is present with any procedure that breaks the skin but the risk of infection in this setting is extremely small. The procedure is performed in a sterile environment and the harvesting is performed using a closed system which means the fat and stem cells are not exposed to the air. The processing is performed under a laminar flow hood under sterile conditions to avoid any exposure to contaminants. Because you are wake during the procedure, you do not have the increased risk of blood clots that you would have under general anesthesia or heavy sedation. However, unforeseen complications are possible with any medical treatment so we do require recent blood work within the past 6 months and we may require a medical clearance from your doctor if you have pre-existing medical conditions or are over the age of 60.
Q: Who does the procedure? A: The procedure is performed by Dr. Song with a surgical assistant.
Q: How long does the treatment take? A: The whole process can be completed in as little a 2 hours but could take over 5 hours depending on how much you are having done and what other procedures you are having done at the same time. For example, many people like to have a full makeover including liposuction, skin tightening and laser treatments to take advantage of the cost saving.
Q: How much does it cost? A: The cost of the treatment will depend on whether you are doing a partial fat transfer or a whole face stem cell face lift. If the procedure is done in combination with other related treatments such as skin tightening, liposuction, stem cell treatment to joints and laser resurfacing, we can put together a package that can save you a lot of money. The best thing to do is to come in for a consultation and we can give you an exact quote.
Q; Is this treatment covered by insurance? A: Our focus is on cosmetic treatments which are not covered by insurance. Medical application of stem cells for arthritis, lung conditions, are still considered experimental so insurance will not cover these treatments either.
Q: What else can we do with stem cells? A: We are only beginning to touch on all the possibilities. Adipose derived stem cells are being used to repair heart muscle after a heart attack, they are being use to treat brain and spinal cord injuries. Studies are being done on dementia and autoimmune diseases. The possibilities are limitless. Currently, we are offering stem cell treatment for arthritic joints, chronic lung disease and general well being. The treatments are considered experimental so we are not allowed to make any claims about cures, but the results we are seeing are quite remarkable.
Q: Can we freeze and store the fat and stem cells for later use. A: Yes there are companies that will store fat and stem cells just like they do with umbilical cord blood. However, there are some technicalities that make this a challenge. The biggest drawback is that once your stem cells leave our facility, it is considered a drug and we are not allowed to re-inject it into you. You would have to go overseas or wait until the laws change. The other issue is the cost involved in storing your cells. The good news is that adipose derived stem cells and fat are relatively easy to harvest. If you needed more, we can alway harvest more fresh cells.