Lip augmentation by injections is one of the most common injectable filler treatments of the face. It has been done since synthetic collagen fillers were introduced way back in 1981. Since then many different injectable filler materials have been used but the ideal lip augmentation material remains as yet undiscovered.
Fat would seem to be an ideal soft tissue injection material given its autologous source and as a natural part of many soft tissue sites. Its main disadvantage is how well it survives the transplantation process which is highly variable. Of all areas of the face into which fat is transplanted the lips are known to have a low rate of success. There are no proven reasons why this is so but it has been conjectured that the high movement and distortion of the lips contributes to injected fat absorption. It could also be that there is little natural fat in the lips and that makes it a poor recipient bed.
The donor source of the fat for lip augmentation may also be a contributing factor. Most fat harvests are taken somewhere on the trunk, usually the abdomen or the inner thighs. Whether this is optimal fat for facial transplantation us unknown. This is ‘body’ fat which may not be ideal for use in the face but it does offer convenience and a relatively large supply. Another option for lip augmentation is the buccal fat pad. It offers more than enough fat for the lip and is easily harvested through an intraoral approach.
Since the buccal fat pad is a solid source of fat rather than obtained by liposuction, its use as an injectable source of fat may be overlooked. But the buccal fat pad can be sectioned into small pieces and placed into a syringe. Between two connected syringes it can be passed back and forth to create a more injectable consistency.
Whether buccal pad survives better in the lips is not known although in my fat injection lip augmentation experience it does. Its only drawback is that there has to be an aesthetic reason to harvest the buccal fat pads so no adverse facial effect is seen.
Dr. Barry Eppley