Short summary

  • augments the breasts with your own tissue without scars
  • fat is removed from other areas of your body
  • it is done under local or general anesthetic, as an outpatient procedure
  • some fat is reabsorbed and procedure may have to be repeated
  • after three months results are permanent
  • cannot be considered as substitution to augmentation with implants, as the degree of augmentation is limited

What is fat transfer?

Fat transfer known also as fat grafting or lipofilling is a surgical procedure in which the fat is harvested by liposuction, and then used to restore the body contour by adding volume (augmentation) to a soft tissue deficit. It can also be used to improve the quality of the scarred tissues.

Can breast be augmented with fat transfer?

Thanks to recent technical advances in fat grafting breast augmentation using your own fat tissue has become a safe and viable alternative to implants. Fat transfer can be used in cases where mastoplasty with implants is either inappropriate or unacceptable by the patient. However, this method cannot be considered as substitution to augmentation with implants, as the degree of augmentation is still fairly limited.

Who can benefit from lipofilling of the breast?

The ideal breast augmentation or reconstruction will always be with the patient’s own tissue. However, currently in our hands the lipofilling is considered to:

  1. Augment the breasts if implants are contraindicated or refused
  2. Enlarge the breasts where only a moderate increase in size is desired
  3. Restore the fullness of the upper pole of the breast
  4. Improve the implant irregularities (wrinkles, steps, rippling)
  5. Balance the asymmetries (congenital, after tumor removal, after breast reconstruction)
  6. Improve skin and scars quality after irradiation for cancer treatment

How is fat transfer to the breast done?

Lipofilling is done in three steeps:

  1. Harvesting of adipose (fatty) tissue from a donor site with liposuction
  2. Cleaning of the aspirated fat
  3. Reinjection of the purified fat with specially designed needles in a three-dimensional manner.

Studies have shown that as many fat cells as possible should have direct contact with the recipient tissues to obtain enough oxygen and nutrients to survive. Therefore we only transfer small volumes of fat into small pockets of the recipient tissues to obtain consistent results. Fat cells that survive the transfer grow and increase the volume of the breast.

Fat can be harvested from any part of the body where fat deposits accumulate, most commonly abdomen, waist, back, thighs and knees. There is an added benefit of improving the contour of these areas by liposuction.

Depending on the extent of the procedure the lipofilling can be performed under general anesthesia, local anesthesia with sedation or pure local anesthesia.

Can results of lipofilling be guaranteed?

No, the result cannot be guaranteed. The survival of fat cells is influenced by different factors and many of them are still unknown. Due to variable take of the fat cells the procedure may need to be repeated to achieve the desired result.

Are the results of lipofilling permanent?

We were born with a certain amount of fat cells. When we gain weight these cells get bigger, and when we lose weight they get smaller. Everything that reduces (liposuction) or adds (lipofilling) the amount of fat cells has a lasting effect.

What is recovery after breast augmentation with fat transfer?

The benefits of lipofilling are that your own fat and nothing foreign is placed in your body and that the procedure will sculpt other areas, too. The scars are unnoticeable, the recovery after the procedure is short, and the breasts have a natural look and touch.

The downside is that when transferring fat to other areas of the body some will be reabsorbed (approximately 30-70%). Therefore, the results are unpredictable, and additional procedures may be necessary for optimal result. However, it is known that fat cells that remain viable after three months will be there permanently.

One of the major potential problems after fat transfer to the breast is the possibility of changes on mammogram, which can mimic cancer. Recent studies suggest that, while there are changes on mammogram, experienced radiologists are able to distinguish these from cancer.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of implants over fat breast augumentation?

Breast augmentation with implants has for many years been the most common cosmetic procedure, which is testimony to its safety and ability to achieve satisfying results in most patients. The procedure offers predictable results and large volumes can be added to the breast in a single procedure.

The standard for breast augmentation remains silicone breast implants, but these are not without their own problems. A foreign body can get infected and needs to be taken out. In a small proportion of patients capsule forming around the implant can contract and distort the breast. In skinny patients, the edge of the implant and wrinkles in the outer shell can be visible. Implants cannot be expected to behave like normal breast tissue.