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Can Fat Transfer Be Used for Breast Reconstruction?
Women who want breast reconstruction don’t necessarily want breast implants often used in breast augmentation. These patients may object to putting implants in their bodies because of medical concerns and other reasons.
For them, breast augmentation with fat transfer could be the answer. This is a popular choice that also offers the chance to reduce stubborn fat deposits in the abdomen, sides, and legs.
Fat transfer is another option for breast reconstruction after mastectomy or lumpectomy. The technique also can be used for women who have breast size and shape issues from genetic issues such as tuberous breast and Poland Syndrome.
Fat transfer into the breast can accomplish the following:
- To enhance the size of the breast by one cup
- To improve fullness and symmetry
- To improve the breast appearance affected by cancer surgery or radiation
- To improve an asymmetric breast after a previous breast augmentation or reconstruction
After the fat transfer procedure, 50% to 80% of the transferred tissue will survive. That’s why the surgeon slightly overfills the surgical site with fat. Fat that isn’t absorbed will become part of the breast.
There are no large incisions made with fat transfer and liposuction, so scarring is negligible. That’s one of the reasons some patients don’t want breast implants; a large scar under the breast is usually present.
Fat Transfer and Breast Reconstruction Overview
Women who have breast cancer and mastectomy or lumpectomy usually have some degree of breast tissue loss. In addition, having one or both breasts removed can have a significant impact on the patient’s happiness and psychology after breast cancer.
Breast reconstruction is critical for recovering from the disease and getting life back to normal. Some women may have breast reconstruction with fat transfer immediately after the cancer removal procedure.
Others may have breast reconstruction with fat transfer in another procedure weeks or months later. For example, if the patient is still undergoing radiation treatment on the chest, having the procedure later may be needed.
No matter when you have it, breast reconstruction with fat grafting offers an attractive, natural result using your own fat cells.
Why Fat Transfer?
For decades, fat from a patient’s body has been used to restore a healthy appearance. Some of the reasons fat transfer has been used are for cancer recovery and making someone look younger.
For example, some women want fat transfer in the face instead of dermal fillers to fill in hollow cheeks or aging-related lines and wrinkles.
Fat transfer uses liposuction to remove fat from other body parts, usually the abdomen, flanks, or legs. The fat is washed, processed, and injected into the breast, face, or body area.
Benefits of fat transfer are:
- It’s natural: It’s your fat, and it won’t be rejected. It also feels natural and is indistinguishable from actual breast tissue.
- Better shape: The surgeon puts in the fat in small amounts, so the shape looks natural.
- Less pain: Skin can soften and become more flexible after the fat is placed.
- Long results: The transferred fat tissue can last forever, while breast implants need to be replaced eventually, which requires breast implant removal.
Also, if the surgeon uses a tissue expander before the fat is transferred, more of the fat can survive than ever before. A recent clinical study found that an average of 230 ccs of fat can survive with tissue expansion, compared to only 130 ccs of fat without tissue expansion.
Note that using tissue expansion means you will need to wait a few months between the placement of the tissue expansion device and having the fat injected.
Fat Transfer For Breast Reconstruction Procedure
There are two ways this technique can be used to reconstruct the breast:
- Lumpectomy: After the tumor is taken out of the breast, the surgeon may inject fat into the depression caused by removing it.
- Mastectomy: Fat may be injected around a breast implant to make the breast look more natural.
The fat is taken from the donor site with a cannula that keeps the cells alive before being injected. Next, the surgeon carefully injects small amounts of fat into the breast with the same cannula.
It’s vital that a skilled surgeon injects the fat with care, so it doesn’t die in the breast. After a few weeks, the new fat develops its own blood supply, and the transfer becomes permanent.
Fat Transfer Recovery
Another significant benefit of fat transfer for breast augmentation is that you will have a faster recovery than breast implants. The procedure is less invasive, so the body can heal more quickly.
Most patients have mild or moderate swelling and bruising in the treated breast and fat donor site. This can be reduced with ice and prescription pain medication.
Most patients do not have much pain in the breast after the procedure, but there will be some mild pain in the donor site.
The medical staff will give you a compression garment to reduce swelling in the donor area.
You should not compress the breasts for at least two weeks after surgery, so you probably will not wear a breast during this time. It’s also advised not to sleep on your stomach. Putting pressure on the breast and fat can affect the survival of the transferred fat.
Patients who have a sit-down job can usually return to work after three or four days. However, those with a physical job may need to take a break for up to a week.
Breast reconstruction with fat transfer is a natural way to rebuild the breast without an implant. Talk to your surgeon today to determine if breast reconstruction with fat transfer will work for you.
Request A Breast Reconstruction Consultation
Interested in fat transfer and breast reconstruction in San Antonio? Dr. Scott J Farber or Dr. Amita Shah of Hill Country Plastic Surgery can help. They will consult with you about your desire for breast reconstruction with fat transfer.
Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation. (n.d.). Accessed at https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/fat-transfer-breast-augmentation
Breast Reconstruction Overview. (n.d.). Accessed at https://www.upmc.com/services/plastic-surgery/services/regenerative-cell-and-tissue-therapies/fat-grafting-treatments/breast-reconstruction
Autologous Fat Grafting. (n.d.). Accessed at https://consultqd.clevelandclinic.org/autologous-fat-grafting-for-breast-reconstruction-safe-but-worrisome-to-patients/
Fat Transfer Provides Alternative To Breast Implants. (2020). Accessed at https://www.plasticsurgery.org/news/press-releases/fat-transfer-provides-alternative-to-breast-implants