Buccal fat pad pedicle flap for midface augmentation

O M Ramirez
Annals of Plastic Surgery 1999, 43 (2): 109-18
Midface aging is characterized by soft-tissue ptosis with loss of cheek projection. Subperiosteal midface lifts may reposition the soft-tissue mounds and improve the tear trough, but may not fill the lateral cheeks in patients with significant jowls or poor bony support. Correction with alloplastic implants is helpful, but may not be accepted by many patients. During subperiosteal midface lifts, the author often excises Bichat's fat pad to decrease the jowl and to diminish face fullness. He has modified this approach and used a vascularized Bichat's fat flap to aid lateral cheek projection while still improving lower face fullness and the jowl. For the last 4 years, close to 150 patients undergoing subperiosteal midface lifts have had vascularized Bichat's fat pad flaps. The jowls were marked preoperatively. All patients had complete cheek undermining either through a buccal sulcus incision or through a crow's-foot incision, or through a muscle-sparing limited lower blepharoplasty incision. Bichat's fat pad is identified in its pocket medial to the masseter tendon. Mobilization of Bichat's fat pad is done by blunt dissection, preserving its thin fascial envelope. The "hernial saclike" pocket, excluding Stensen's duct and the buccal branches of the facial nerve, is identified and protected. Suspension is accomplished by fixation with 3-0 polydioxanone sutures either to the temporalis fascia (via the temporal incisions), to the arcus marginalis, or to the suborbicularis oculi fat pad. Fixation technique is dependent on where the fat pad is needed and the surgeon's preference. Fat pad repositioning is accomplished with a minor learning curve. The most common problems are tearing of the fat pad during fixation and temporary numbness of the long buccal nerve. Attention to leaving the capsule intact and gentle handling is essential to fixation. Nevertheless, in some patients with poor-quality fat pads, fixation is extremely difficult. Four-year results have been excellent. Further studies with magnetic resonance imaging of postoperative patients are necessary to assess longevity. Bichat's fat pad provides autologous vascularized tissue for midface fill. Placement may be lateral for cheek augmentation or medial for deep nasolabial folds. Jowl improvement also occurs with the removal of Bichat's fat pad from its pocket.

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