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Fat Transfers for Breast Reconstruction

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In the last seven to 10 years, an increasing number of plastic surgeons have begun grafting fat to improve breast reconstruction results. This grafting, commonly known as a fat transfer, uses fat cells to contour the breasts.

Fat transfers typically occur during another cosmetic procedure like liposuction. The surgeon can take the fat cells from areas like the thighs or abdomen and transfer the cells to the breast.

Who Qualifies for Fat Transfers?

While some surgeons use fat transfers for breast augmentation as an alternative to breast implants, the research is still out on how effective this procedure is. Livingston Plastic Surgery suggests that only women who need reconstruction to the breast consider fat transfers. For example, fat transfers are commonly performed on breast cancer patients in remission who have undergone a partial or full mastectomy. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) supports fat transfers to improve upon breast reconstruction but does not endorse the use in cosmetic breast augmentation.

Do Fat Transfers Affect Mammograms?

Fat transfers can affect mammograms but are not linked to cancerous tumors. When fat is transferred, only 50 percent of the cells take and 50 percent are absorbed back into the body. Fat can also calcify and harden. When women undergo a mammogram, the calcified fat can appear similar to cancerous cells.

Radiologic literature indicates that new generations of mammography equipment are more sophisticated than their predecessors and better able to distinguish cancer cells from benign ones. This is particularly true of digital mammography, especially when examining dense breast tissue. In addition, recently published studies suggest that radiologists are able to distinguish between the changes seen after surgical procedures to the breast and changes that are suspicious for cancer. However, any surgical procedure to the breast will produce changes in a mammogram, which may lead to further investigation to determine if those changes are related to breast cancer.

Benefits of Fat Transfers

Breast fat transfers offer some benefits over traditional breast implants:

  • The breast augmentation is done using your own tissue, so there is no chance of a tissue reaction.
  • Capsule formation, which can be a common problem with implants, does not occur with breast fat transfer.
  • The fat does not harden over time.
  • The fat transfer has no chance of leaking or deflating.

Although changes in weight due to pregnancy or aging can result in changes in shape and/or drooping after a breast fat transfer, doctors do not recommend replacing the fat.

Risks of Fat Transfer to Breasts

ASPS members responding to a survey about their use of fat transfers for breast surgery cited interference with mammography and cancer screening as potential obstacles to their recommending fat grafting to patients. Others cited problems with unpredictable results, including poor retention of the transplanted fat cells.

Despite these concerns, fat grafting to the breast is an increasingly popular procedure among U.S. plastic surgeons. Nearly 90 percent of the surgeons performing this procedure use fat grafting for breast reconstruction, with a smaller percentage also using the procedure for cosmetic breast surgery.

Fat Transfer for Breast Reconstruction with Livingston Plastic Surgery

Like many tumescent liposuction procedures performed today, fat transfers are done in a fully accredited ambulatory surgery center or hospital. For more information about breast reconstruction and fat transfer procedures in Houston, contact Livingston Plastic Surgery.