Surgeons have used fat grafting (also called lipofilling, fat transfer and fat injections) for years to contour sunken facial areas, correct cosmetic hand defects, and plump buttocks and other parts of the body. Fat grafting is also commonly used in breast reconstruction, and is now one of the most versatile tools in the plastic surgeon’s breast reconstruction toolkit.
Fat grafting uses excess fat from your belly, thighs, buttocks, or “love handles”—anywhere you have it but don’t want it—to improve your reconstructed breast. Your surgeon can transfer fat from a single area—your abdomen or thighs, for example—or from multiple donor sites. The procedure enhances reconstructive possibilities, improving not-so-good reconstruction results, and making a good reconstruction even better.
Fat grafting is a 3-step procedure that is performed as an outpatient revision procedure under local or general anesthesia. The fat is liposuctioned (the process is a bit more defined and careful than general lipo), processed to remove impurities, and then injected into the reconstructed breast. With earlier fat grafting methods, much of the repositioned fat was resorbed (assimilated back into the body). But procedures have vastly improved, making fat grafting more effective and more reliable.
Readily available and biocompatible (it’s your own living tissue, after all), fat transferred to your new breast can:
The study, which followed participants for two years, compared satisfaction between women who had fat grafting after reconstruction and those who did not. Initially, women who had fat grafting to correct deficiencies in their breast reconstruction expressed lower satisfaction, psychosocial well-being and sexual well-being after their reconstruction. After fat grafting, however, they were equally satisfied with their new breasts.
Transferring fat may prove useful in other areas as well. Some physicians have reported that it somewhat reduces post-mastectomy pain. Others have found that fat grafting establishes a healthy bed of tissue on the chest wall that reduces radiation-induced complications with breast implants. (Breast implants and radiation are notoriously bad companions.)
Fat grafting does involve having another procedure, but if you’re unhappy with the way your new breasts look, talk to your surgeon about how fat grafting might be able to help resolve the issue(s).
Bennett KG, Qi Ji, Kim HM, et al. “Association of Fat Grafting with Patient-Reported Outcomes in Postmastectomy Breast Reconstruction.” JAMA Surgery. 2017;152(10):944-50.
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