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Original Investigation
Sept/Oct 2018

Efficacy and Safety of Autologous Fat Transfer in Facial Reconstructive SurgeryA Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Plastic, Reconstructive and Hand Surgery, Maastricht University Medical Center (MUMC+), Maastricht, the Netherlands
  • 2Department of Plastic, Reconstructive and Hand Surgery, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
JAMA Facial Plast Surg. 2018;20(5):351-360. doi:10.1001/jamafacial.2018.0102
Key Points

Question  Is autologous fat transfer (lipofilling) a safe and effective treatment for soft-tissue deformities in the face?

Findings  This systematic review and meta-analysis of 52 studies and 1568 patients found autologous fat transfer to be associated with a high patient satisfaction rate (91.1%) and surgeon satisfaction rate (88.6%) after 1.5 sessions. Volume retention stabilized at 50% to 60% at 1 year, and only 4.8% of procedures resulted in clinical complications.

Meaning  This meta-analysis of the combined data from all published studies confirms that autologous fat transfer is a safe and effective treatment in facial reconstructive surgery.


Importance  The use of autologous fat transfer (AFT) or lipofilling for correcting contour deformities is seen as one of the major breakthroughs in reconstructive plastic surgery. Its applications in facial reconstructive surgery have been of particular interest owing to the prospect of achieving autologous reconstruction by a minimally invasive approach. However, its unpredictability and variable degree of resorption have limited its utility and much skepticism still exists regarding its efficacy. Furthermore, more than 2 decades of clinical research have produced a highly fragmented body of evidence that has not been able to provide definite answers.

Objective  To investigate the safety and efficacy of AFT in facial reconstruction through a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Data Sources  A literature search was performed in PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library from inception to October 11, 2017.

Study Selection  All published studies investigating the efficacy and safety of AFT in facial reconstructive surgery.

Data Extraction and Synthesis  Two independent reviewers performed data extraction systematically, adhering to the PRISMA guidelines. Summary measures were pooled in a random-effects model meta-analysis.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The patient and surgeon satisfaction, graft survival, number of AFT sessions, and the incidence of AFT-related complications were the main outcomes of interest in this meta-analysis.

Results  This systematic review resulted in the inclusion 52 relevant studies consisting of 1568 unique patients. These included 4 randomized clinical trials, 11 cohort studies, and 37 case series. The overall follow-up averaged 1.3 years after AFT. Meta-analysis revealed a very high overall patient satisfaction rate of 91.1% (95% CI, 85.1%-94.8%) and overall surgeon satisfaction rate of 88.6% (95% CI, 83.4%-92.4%). The number of AFT sessions required to achieve the desired result was 1.5 (95% CI, 1.3-1.7) and 50% to 60% of the injected volume was retained at 1 year. Only 4.8% (95% CI, 3.3%-6.9%) of procedures resulted in clinical complications.

Conclusions and Relevance  To our knowledge, this study provides the first overview of the current knowledge about AFT in facial reconstructive surgery. Our results confirm that AFT is an effective technique for treating soft-tissue deformities in the head and neck, with low rate of minor complications.

Level of Evidence  NA.