Why Choose Dr. Zenn?

  • Dr. Zenn’s primary focus is on facial rejuvenation procedures
  • Facial fat grafting is one of the most important developments in facial cosmetic surgery in the last 5 years
  • Dr. Zenn has been performing fat grafting with beautiful results for more than a decade
  • Taught his cutting-edge techniques to hundreds of plastic surgeons
  • Dr. Zenn is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor for Cosmetic Surgery
  • Dr. Zenn holds board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery

What is Facial Fat Grafting (Fat Transfer)?

Fat grafting is a surgical technique that harvests fat cells from one part of your body, processes those cells, then places them in another area of your body for a cosmetic benefit. The purpose of fat grafting is to augment or fill-in volume-deficient areas, commonly seen in the aging face.

Facial Fat Grafting, Zenn Plastic Surgery, Raleigh, NC

Many patients are familiar with dermal fillers (i.e. Juvéderm®, Restylane®) which also add volume to deficient areas of the face – but are temporary. Autologous fat (from your own body), as opposed to dermal fillers, replaces “like with like,” and replaces lost fat in your face. In fact, placement of fat is possible in many more places on the face in comparison to injectables. Fat creates an incredibly soft, natural, and youthful appearance that fillers alone cannot accomplish. Fat transfer uses your own living cells and therefore is long lasting and safe. The amount of fat that survives the transfer is dependent on experience.

Our goal at Zenn Plastic Surgery is to help you achieve the most beautiful and natural-looking results possible, while offering a positive and easy patient experience.

Are You a Good Candidate for a Fat Transfer?

Loss of facial volume is a common component of facial aging and fat grafting restores that youthful-looking volume. Therefore, almost every facelift patient is a candidate for facial fat transfer. That is, as long as there is a good donor site from which to harvest the fat. Facial fat grafting rarely requires more than 100cc of fat harvest. By comparison, cosmetic liposuction removes hundreds or thousands of cc’s of fat. If you’re in good health, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate.

The Facial Fat Grafting Procedure

Fat is harvested from one part of your body and then centrifuged to purify it. Finally, Dr. Zenn carefully reinjects these purified cells with cannulas into the areas that need augmentation.

Facial fat grafting is a three-stage process:

(1) harvesting (2) purification and (3) placement, performed under sedation or general anesthesia in an ambulatory surgery facility.


Dr. Zenn will consult with you to select a site for fat removal before surgery. During surgery, he will create a small puncture in the area for fat removal. Then Dr. Zenn inserts a cannula connected to a syringe and carefully extracts fat (liposuction).


Dr. Zenn obtains the correct amount of fat from the donor area. He then will use a centrifuge to spin the fat to remove non-viable cells, blood, and other impurities. Next he will transfer the fat cells to small syringes for injection.


The placement of fat is where experience and artistry set Dr. Zenn apart from other plastic surgeons. After marking the area to receive the fat graft, Dr. Zenn will insert a small cannula into a small incision point near the site. He then passes the cannula in and out of the areas he is augmenting. Dr. Zenn does this multiple times, using his artistic eye to sculpt the face. The sites of entry are so small that they often require no stitches and heal beautifully.

  • What common areas are grafted with fat?

    Areas traditionally injected with fillers are sites for fat grafting. Common sites include the temple, eyebrow, cheek, lips, chin, jawline, and even earlobes!

  • Why do some plastic surgeons say fat grafting doesn’t work?

    The advanced techniques of facial fat grafting are relatively new. Most practicing plastic surgeons did not learn how to perform fat grafting when they trained to be plastic surgeons. As they progress in their careers, they have to decide which new procedures to try and may or may not adopt these procedures based on their experience. There is a definite learning curve when performing fat grafting and early on there can be problems like lumps or loss of the graft. Some quit at this point and just tell patients that it does not work. Dr. Zenn learned how to successful transfer fat cells while at Duke. Over the past 10 years, he has further perfected his technique minimizing problems and maximizing fat survival.

  • Will I notice any changes in my shape where the fat is harvested from?

    The amount of fat needed for grafting is quite small and can be taken from a variety of areas so there is no change to the overlying contour. That said, many patients take this opportunity to have fat harvested from an area of concern, like the abdomen, thighs, or hips and have a reshaping liposuction to improve their contour. In these cases, most of the fat removed is discarded and only a small amount of purified fat used for the grafting procedure.

  • How long do the fat grafts survive?

    Fat cells removed with liposuction are alive and can stay alive for a few days without new blood supply. These delicate cells must be handled carefully during the purification and placement process. Placement is critical as each fat graft must be surrounded by tissue that can support its nutrition. Once these cells gain their new blood supply, they are alive and well. Your face will continue to age but the aging clock has been reset.