Injectable fat and turkeys: fresh vs. frozen

November 23, 2011

Human fat banks can make your fat an off-the-shelf product.
Human fat banks can make your fat an off-the-shelf product.

Thanksgiving is around the corner and it’s time to secure that turkey. Is it worth it to wait a couple of days before Thanksgiving to get a freshly-killed never-been-frozen model? If your motto is, “A bird in the freezer is worth two in the bush,” you will simply lug home a frozen turkey now and sit back smugly, bird resting quietly in freezer, while others do the last minute scurrying. But if you’re a purist, you know that nothing compares with a freshly-killed turkey and you will brave the traffic, seeking an exotic turkey farm, or take your chances in the wild west of your supermarket a couple of days before Thanksgiving.

Now, plastic surgeons have a similar dilemma. For years, they have been taking fat from one part of you and moving it to another by injecting it. Most commonly, the fat travels from a southern to a northern body part, i.e., love handles, buttocks and thighs to aging areas of the face.

When faced with the notion of fresh vs. frozen fat for facial injections, a Palm Beach plastic surgeon argues that most patients have donor sites of fat that can be used for fresh transfer, so frozen is not necessary. Further, without a body of scientific research available, it is difficult to make the argument that you can get equivalent results from frozen fat as fresh fat. “I think the verdict is still out as to the optimum way to preserve fat, and certainly it’s well understood that fresh fat tends to retain viability of the transferred fat cells and stem cells probably better than when the fat has been processed through a cryogenic preservation freezing process, then thawed again.”

A Florida plastic surgeon, interviewed by WPBF.com, November 3, 2011, has a less conservative view. In fact, he runs a frozen fat bank. “Having a bank available makes fat literally an off-the-shelf product.”

Fat storage became crucial to his wife, Michelle, after she was diagnosed with an invasive cancer in her left breast. She decided to remove both breasts but did not want reconstructive surgery with implants. At the time of her mastectomy, she had liposuction and then a fat transfer. She would need multiple procedures, so the rest of the fat was frozen for later use. Hopefully, there will be a follow-up story soon with a glowing report about her reconstruction.

As for the holidays, fresh or frozen, it’s all about family! 


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

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About ASAPS
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

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