Orbital Fat Injection: Technique and 5-Year Follow-Up



Orbital volume loss, early or late, is common after placement of an orbital implant or dermis fat graft, and there is currently no satisfactory long-lasting solution. Hyaluronic fillers are relatively easy to administer but are prone to migration and are temporary. Cannula-based orbital fat grafting has not gained the status of standard of care because of perceived low likelihood of success in the near term. This paper describes a technique for fat volume augmentation, its rationale, long-term follow-up, and a description of a complication unique to fat grafting in the orbit.


Ten consecutive subjects with acquired anophthalmic enophthalmos were enrolled in two IRB (institutional review board)-approved protocols (10.27 and 12.01) undergoing a single session of autologous fat grafting to the orbit using a closed blunt cannula technique. Preoperative photography and non-contrast MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) were obtained prior, immediately after, and at 1 year after injection. Yearly postoperative photography was performed on subjects with successful results.


Three of five subjects in IRB 10.27 clearly showed a clinically apparent increase in orbital volume at 1 year. One subject who failed to show improvement also sustained inadvertent injection into three extraocular muscles; she subsequently volunteered to enter IRB 12.01. Three of five subjects in IRB 12.01 did benefit, showing volume increase at 1 year, including the subject who had experienced intramuscular injection in 10.27. One subject in IRB 12.01 was lost to follow-up. Of the total of ten subjects enrolled, three showed no improvement and one was lost to follow-up; six subjects showed volume improvement at 1 year with two retaining the correction at 5 years and four showing variable diminution over 2–5 years. With the exception of the subject who sustained injection into extraocular muscles, none experienced complications.


A modified technique is recommended for orbital fat injection distinct from methods used elsewhere in the body. Theoretical limits of volumetric enhancement temper expectations in orbital fat grafting and should inform surgical planning. Cannula-based orbital fat grafting can be done safely and result in a gain of orbital fat volume at 1 year and in some cases up to 5 years.

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The author would like to thank Dr Roger Amar for his inspiration. Dr Donald Wood-Smith for his encouragement and Dr Joseph Walsh (in memoriam) for his support in the IRB committee.

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Correspondence to Donald M. Fox.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Fox, D.M. Orbital Fat Injection: Technique and 5-Year Follow-Up. Aesth Plast Surg 43, 123–132 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00266-018-1205-z

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  • Orbital atrophy
  • Fat grafting
  • Anophthalmos
  • Complication
  • Longevity