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YOUR HEALTH: Using fat to rebuild your life

Fat grafting allows doctors to reshape areas of a patient's body

MIAMI — Fat grafting is a surgical technique used for years to transfer fat from one area of the body to another. 

It may sound like a vanity project for some, but it has much bigger ramifications for many other patients.

One doctor used a new technique to repair a defect in one woman's leg.

For pediatric nurse Kali Galvan, it's a chance to close a painful chapter in her life.

"I noticed about three years ago, about 2017, that I was having like a fatty growth in my leg," she recalled.

Luckily, a biopsy came back benign, but about a week later there was a painful infection.

"My leg was very swollen, very red, extremely tender."

Plastic surgeon Joshua Lampert knew he had to remove the infection and let the wound heal.

"The problem is when a wound heals like that, it created a really big crater in her leg," said Dr. Lampert, a Board certified plastic surgeon in Miami.

That's when Dr. Lampert offered her fat grafting to fill the hole in her leg.

"Fat grafting is a technique where you harvest fat from somewhere on the body that you don't want it, and then you place it somewhere where you do," he explained.

While harvesting fat is not new, the technology he's using is.

"We use a special low-pressure liposuction system, because the low-pressure avoids fat cell rupture."

By keeping more fat cells alive, fewer procedures are needed.

Find plastic surgeons associated with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons by clicking here.

Kali had fat taken from three areas.

"The first one we did my abdominal area, the second one we did my back, and the third one we did kinda like my love handles," she sad.

"Once that is harvested and separated, then we are able to inject it deep to the scar and try to push that scar up," Dr. Lampert said.

The entire process took six months.

One of the procedure's attractions is that it is a safe, minimally invasive procedure, usually done in an outpatient setting.

But now Kali's leg is healed and she said she has the confidence to show off her legs once again.

"I just felt like I was on top of the world." 

Dr, Lampert says fat grafting is done under general anesthesia and can be used for breast reconstruction after a mastectomy or for adding more volume to the face after a tumor resection, basically to fill any soft tissue defect.

Some fat grafting procedures are covered under insurance. 

Otherwise the cost can be anywhere from $20,000 and higher depending on the procedure and amount of liposuction.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.