Fat Transfer to the Breasts, or Fat Grafting
Fat grafting the breast is a procedure that involves harvesting fat from one location of the body, processing the fat, and then transferring that processed fat to another location of the body.
Liposuction is first performed on the chosen donor site (often the abdomen or thighs) under general anesthesia. The harvested fat is then processed and prepared for injection. The prepared fat is injected into carefully chosen locations to improve breast contour, resulting in improved breast symmetry and breast fullness with no incision to the breast required.
Sculpting The Breast
Fat grafts can be an excellent method for sculpting and refining the aesthetics of the breast and to supplement the results of breast reconstruction surgery.
Dr. Spiegel often uses fat grafting as a contouring aid alongside implants and free flaps to improve the shape and symmetry of reconstructed breasts. Fat grafting can also give the breasts a more natural look and feel, resulting in higher patient satisfaction.
In addition, fat injections actually help radiated tissue, as radiation treatment often causes decreased blood flow and scarring in the tissue. Transferring new fat to this area can actually help increase circulation, soften the tissue, and improve the quality of the skin.
Safety and Efficacy of Fat Grafting
Fat transfer to supplement breast reconstruction is a widely accepted procedure. The careful harvesting, processing, and injection of fat has proven to be a safe and effective technique.
Dr. Spiegel can use fat transfer as a standalone procedure for breast augmentation, combined with implant augmentation, as a supplement to breast reconstruction, or to enhance breast volume for breast lift patients.
You may be a candidate for autologous breast augmentation if:
- You are looking for a modest increase in breast size
- You are looking to camouflage the edges of breast implants
You may be a candidate for reconstructive breast fat grafting if:
- You have defects after partial mastectomy/lumpectomy
- You have contour deformity or irregularities within your mastectomy skin after breast reconstruction
- You are looking for a modest increase in breast size after reconstruction
- You have thin mastectomy skin overlying an implant
- You have pectoral animation
In order to optimize your outcome, we require cessation of smoking for at least 8 weeks prior to surgery and at least 6 weeks after surgery, this also includes second-hand smoke. It is also best to have achieved your ideal goal weight and maintained this weight for at least two months prior to having surgery. Weight fluctuations affect the volume and shape of the breasts.
Benefits of Fat Grafting
- Results in a natural look and feel of the breasts
- Can improve breast asymmetry and breast defects
- Improves skin and tissue quality due to the stem cell properties of the fatty tissue
- Can provide a subtle increase in breast volume when a breast implant is not desired
- Can help camouflage breast implants and reduce the appearance of implant rippling
- Offers full body contouring and can remove fat from undesirable fat reservoirs
While fat transfer to the breasts is generally a safe procedure, there are some risks involved. These include, but are not limited to:
- Death of fat cells (necrosis)
- While complications from fat necrosis are uncommon, they are possible. Fat necrosis is a small area of tissue that didn’t have great blood supply, therefore causing scarring/firmness within that area.
- Fat necrosis can be corrected by surgically breaking up the scar tissue or through physical therapy to soften the area
- Formation of fat cysts, which may result in the need for additional breast imaging or a breast biopsy
- Regarding monitoring of breast tissue after fat grafting, there is a potential risk that breast imaging may mistake fat necrosis or fat cysts for cancerous calcifications, which may lead to breast biopsies. Now that fat grafting is becoming much more prevalent, this potential for unnecessary biopsies is decreasing, however, it is still possible.
- Infection/Risks of Anesthesia
As some fat cells may be reabsorbed by your body, touch-up treatments may also be necessary.
Most patients return to their regular activities in about 1 week. Pain from this procedure is minimal and topical creams can be applied to minimize the appearance of bruising
Your fat grafting procedure requires liposuction to harvest the fat. You will be required to wear a compression garment over the area that was liposuctioned. You will develop some bruising and swelling to the areas that were liposuctioned and this is reduced by wearing the compression garment. Dr. Spiegel will give you detailed instructions on how to care for your liposuction incisions.
The areas of the breast where fat was injected will be swollen and sore. Typically, no incision is required to inject the fat, but you will have small pinpoint areas to heal where a needle is used to inject the fat. Swelling should resolve completely in about three weeks.
The results of fat grafting are excellent and allow for a subtle natural improvement, while improving skin quality in the area. It is natural for the body to reabsorb a percentage of the fat tissue that is grafted and more than one treatment may be necessary to achieve your desired results.
The final results of fat grafting can be appreciated approximately 3 months after surgery. Your body will absorb some of the fat cells, which is patient dependent. After you have completely healed from surgery, the fat cells that remain will be long lasting.
This will be discussed in more detail during your consultation with Dr. Spiegel.