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Stem Cell Facelift Now in Santa Barbara!

I was reading a throw-away plastic surgery journal the other day (the kind that is mostly an advertising forum, with some soft articles written by and for surgeons) and a well known, well respected plastic surgeon from Los Angeles was raving about this Stem Cell Facelift. He wrote about how it smoothed skin, reduced pore size, and minimized recovery compared to other more invasive surgical procedures. He wrote about how the stem cells (the adult kind, not the more controversial fetal kind) were responsible for these wonderful results in the faces of the patients, triggering a youthful physiologic response to the procedure, unattainable by just pulling and lifting.

The stem cells are located in the fat, and are harvested by liposuctioning some fat from the patient. Then, the liquid portion of the harvested fat is separated, and the fat, along with those fantastic stem cells, is injected into the areas to be treated. Sounds a lot like fat injection, a fairly established and common procedure in aesthetic surgery that has grown in popularity over the last 10-15 years. In fact, it sounds exactly like it. Why? Because it is exactly the same thing. Is this procedure somehow different because the actual stem cells are separated from the surrounding fat by some high tech lab process? No, it’s just fat injection. Or fat transfer. Same thing…but now, with a much sexier, more marketable name!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not berating fat injection – in fact I think it is a great procedure, often underused by plastic surgeons because of some long held beliefs by some surgeons that most injected fat goes away after a while. Those of us that do it regularly, using gentle techniques such as hand suctioning as opposed to machine suctioning, and use atraumatic instruments specifically designed for doing it, know that it works reliably. We routinely use it for facial rejuvenation, buttock augmentation, and contour improvements following breast reconstruction. What was annoying about the article was that someone is trying to create hype over a surgical technique that has been around a long time, by slapping a new eye popping name on it. We see this a lot in plastic surgery, and it doesn’t really help the average person trying to gather information about procedures. So many “new” techniques, or worse, actual trademarks on techniques, are the same or nearly the same as established techniques. The “Laser Bra” from a few years ago comes to mind. There are many others, and there will be more.

Interestingly, fat injection is breaking ground into other aspects of plastic surgery for beneficial effects that may be related to the stem cells fat contains. For example, people who have radiation changes to their skin and other tissues following treatments for cancer have been shown to have a significant improvement in those tissues when fat injections are done it the area. This has been seen in women following chest wall radiation after breast cancer. Expect fat injection to have more applications to other problem wounds as well.

If you’re interested in the Stem Cell Facelift, it is a great procedure, and I’ve been doing it in Santa Barbara for years!

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