Liposuction and fat transfer

This page explains about liposuction and fat transfer and what to expect when your child comes to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) to have this procedure.

What is liposuction and fat transfer?

Liposuction and fat transfer is a technique used to reposition fat cells from one area of the body to another. It is mainly used when a child or young person has asymmetry or volume loss to part of their body, to aid its correction. Also, fat cells can be placed under tethered scars that appear sunken or indented, to make them look more even.

What happens before the procedure?

You and your child will need to come to a pre-admission appointment shortly before the procedure is scheduled. The purpose of this is to check that your child is well enough for the procedure and gives you an opportunity to ask any questions. We suggest making a note of these before you come to the appointment.

The doctors will have explained the procedure in more detail, you can discuss any worries you may have and they will ask you to sign a consent form giving permission for your child to have the procedure. If your child has any medical problems, please inform the doctors.

What does the procedure involve?

Liposuction and fat transfer is always carried out while your child is asleep as it is a delicate procedure causing some discomfort. When your child is under general anaesthetic, the surgeon will insert a thin hollow cannula (tube) into a fatty area of the body usually the abdomen, thighs or knees where they will remove the fat cells. Once the surgeon has collected enough cells the fat is then purified to remove the blood and oils. This small puncture wound will then be stitched or taped and covered with a small dressing.

The surgeon will then make a tiny incision near the area to be filled (in the layer beneath the skin) and with a fine needle inserts this pure fat carefully in tiny droplets in many directions to give an even appearance. Once complete the surgeon will again close this incision with a stitch or tape covered by a small dressing.

Are there any risks?

Having a general anaesthetic carries risks however these are extremely small. With any wound there is a small risk of infection. Your child may be given antibiotics to reduce this risk. There is also a risk of bleeding but as the incisions are small the risk is greatly reduced.

After the procedure, your child is likely to feel a bit sore in both of the affected areas. This discomfort can usually be controlled with regular medication such as paracetamol. The area where the fat cells were placed will swell following the procedure but this should improve within the first few weeks following surgery.

If the transferred fat cells do not establish a blood supply within the first three days following the procedure, the fat will die. Your body copes with this by re-absorbing it back into the body, like it does with a bruise. This is more common over very mobile areas such as the mouth. If this happens the procedure can be repeated at a later stage.

What happens afterwards?

Your child will return to the ward after the procedure to allow them to recover from the anaesthetic. Your child can start eating and drinking as normal once they feel like it. It is likely that they will be able to go home on the same day.

You will normally be required to come back to hospital for a follow-up appointment after a week to check how your child is recovering.

You should keep your dressings dry until this time or as instructed. We advise that your child avoids bathing or showering and just has a wash instead. If the dressings fall off, please contact the team so we can advise you what to do next.

You should contact the ward if:

  • The skin around the wound sites looks red or inflamed and feels hotter than the surrounding skin

  • The dressing starts to smell

  • Your child is in pain and pain relief does not seem to help

  • Your child has a temperature of 37.5°C or above and paracetamol does not bring it down

Compiled by: 
Complied by the Plastic Surgery department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group
Last review date: 
July 2012


Please note this is a generic GOSH information sheet. If you have specific questions about how this relates to your child, please ask your doctor. Please note this information may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals.