Fat Grafting for Breast Reconstruction

surgeons using fat grafting for breast reconstruction surgery

Fat grafting for breast reconstruction is a common technique to improve the look and feel of breasts after mastectomy or lumpectomy. The procedure can be done months to years after the initial reconstruction and can be used to improve many minor cosmetic imperfections associated with reconstruction techniques. It can also be used to improve post-radiation lumpectomy depression deformities.

Consulting with a plastic surgeon prior to a prophylactic mastectomy can help you achieve the best results from your reconstruction. Plastic surgeons can also use fat grafting to help you feel happier with a previous breast reconstruction surgery or achieve more symmetry after a unilateral mastectomy.

What Is Fat Grafting?

Fat grafting (also called lipofilling or autologous fat transfer) is a plastic surgery technique that uses a person’s own fat cells from one area of the body and injects them into another location as a permanent filler material to improve the look and feel of the recipient site (commonly used in breast augmentation or reconstruction). Fat is typically removed from the patient’s thighs, abdomen, or buttocks using liposuction. The fat cells are washed, prepared for transfer, and injected into the new area.

Because of the need for the newly transferred fat cells to have optimal blood supply ingrowth, the amount of fat that can be transferred at one time is finite, and the body might resorb some fat cells over time.  These factors mean the procedure may need to be repeated multiple times at designated intervals to achieve the final aesthetic outcomes. Depending on the specific case presentation (site of transfer, volume to transfer), autologous fat grafting is often done under general anesthesia (meaning the patient is asleep during the procedure) as an outpatient procedure with no hospital stay.

How Do They Use Fat Grafting for Breast Reconstruction?

While there have been recent cases of full breast reconstruction using autologous fat transfer, fat grafting for breast reconstruction is usually done as an adjunct procedure to improve the look and feel of breasts after implant reconstruction.

Fat grafting can be used to:

  • correct rippling and dimpling
  • blend the contour around implants and improve the transition zone from the chest wall to the upper pole of the implant
  • improve symmetry between reconstructed breasts 
    • or the reconstructed breast and the patient’s remaining breast in a unilateral mastectomy
  • replace some of the volume lost, correct depression deformities, or even improve post-radiation skin firmness after lumpectomy
  • Augment the volume of breasts reconstructed with natural tissue rather than using an implant

It is common for fat grafting to be completed several months, or even years, after a person’s initial breast reconstruction to allow time for healing and for swelling to go down after the procedure. Once the area has healed, the patient and plastic surgeon can re-evaluate to determine if fat grafting would be a suitable secondary enhancement procedure for the reconstruction.

Pros and Cons of Fat Grafting

Like all surgeries and reconstruction options, fat grafting comes with unique pros and cons that should be discussed thoroughly with your plastic surgeon prior to treatment.

Pros and Cons of Fat Grafting for Breast Reconstruction 

Pros

Cons

  • No risk of graft rejection because it is your own tissue

  • More natural look

  • Softer breasts with a more natural feel

  • Recovery is typically fast and easy

  • Improved contour of donor site

  • Safer than other injectable fillers

  • Small incision site

  • Does not increase risk of breast cancer recurrence

  • Improves minor issues with reconstruction aesthetics

    • Rippling

    • Dimpling

    • Asymmetry

  • Fat cell resorption requiring additional fat grafting

  • Limited transfer volume in a single procedure

  • Potential for fat necrosis

    • Firm nodules or lumps from dying fat cells

      • Harmless

      • Often go away on their own without additional treatment

    • Could be mistaken for breast cancer recurrence causing anxiety and worry

  • May not be possible for very thin patients

  • Not suitable for all revision needs

    • Ruptured implants

    • Capsular contracture

Harris Plastic Surgery: Your Breast Reconstruction Experts

Whether you are looking for a plastic surgeon to help you coordinate a preventative mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, or you have previously had a mastectomy and breast reconstruction and now would like to improve the look and feel of your results, Harris Plastic Surgery is here for you.

Harris Plastic Surgery Experts in Breast Reconstruction and Revision

Well-known in the field of breast reconstruction, Dr. Harris is an expert in microsurgical techniques and is dedicated to getting the best results for his patients at every stage of reconstruction. Joanne Parrinello will act as your insurance liaison and care coordinator and is a much-beloved staff member who consistently receives the highest praise from our patients.

If you are interested in fat grafting for breast reconstruction enhancements, Call or text to schedule your consultation. 

 

Stephen U. Harris, MD FACS

Dr. Stephen U. Harris is a board-certified cosmetic surgeon and recognized expert in breast reduction and reconstruction surgeries, having performed thousands in his career. When it comes to patient care, his philosophy is that every surgery should improve his patient’s overall quality of life, not just their appearance. Dr. Harris stays up-to-date on all the latest advancements in breast augmentation, reconstruction, and reduction and is a recognized innovator in the field. In fact, he was the first surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital to offer primary prepectoral implant breast reconstruction, as well as secondary prepectoral revision surgery.

Dr. Harris also serves as Chief of Plastic Surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, New York and is an active staff surgeon (and former Chief of Plastic Surgery) at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, New York.

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