Posted on February 28, 2013
Fat Transfer in aesthetic breast surgery.
The use of fat in aesthetic breast surgery is something which is being increasingly talked about. Whilst it is not a new treatment it is becoming better understood and techniques are being developed to make it more reliable. The beauty of using fat in the breast is that it is one’s own natural tissue and not a ‘foreign body’. It therefore feels entirely natural and behaves just like normal breast tissue.
Who is it suitable for?
Fat transfer can be used in a number of different ways depending on the individual’s body shape and size and also on the existing size and position of the breasts. It will not be suitable for everybody. At MyBreast, it can be either used on its own or in combination with other procedures. Breast enlargement with fat alone can be achieved in certain individuals who are looking for a moderate increase in breast size and who have enough fat elsewhere to achieve this.
Fat transfer can also be used in those who are having other procedures such as a breast lift where along with the lift a small increase in volume is desired. This combination works well as only a small volume increase is required to supplement the lift.
Fat transfer can also be combined with implants. There is an increasing vogue to achieve a certain volume using smaller implants and supplementing the rest with fat. Often fat alone will not be sufficient to produce the desired increase in size and therefore an implant will be required to help with this. However, the principal of having less implant and more of one’s own natural tissue is a very attractive one. It means that the implants are more disguised and feel more natural as they are padded out by the surrounding fat.
Fat can also be used to even out uneven breasts. It is common for 2 breasts to be slightly asymmetric, but occasionally it is necessary to try and correct the disparity. Fat is an effective tool at helping to achieve this by enhancing the smaller of the 2 sides.
Fat can also be used in helping re-shape breasts that are of unusual shape such as tuberous breasts.
What does it involve?
The principal is that fat is removed from one part of the body – wherever there is enough to take it from – It is then cleaned and concentrated and re-injected into the breast with special syringes. It is effectively having liposuction to get rid of fat from unwanted areas of excess and instead of discarding it, the fat is re-utilised. There is therefore a double benefit, that of combining improvement in body contours by liposuction with enhancement of the breasts at the same time.
The procedure is usually carried out under a general anaesthetic as a day case procedure.
Patients are encouraged to wear a comfortable supportive bra afterwards until the swelling has gone down and any discomfort has gone – usually 3-4 weeks.
Recovery afterwards is speedy afterwards as all the fat transfer – both the harvest and the injection – is carried out through very small incisions – 3-4 mm in length. People are therefore encouraged to mobilise as soon as possible.
How long does it last?
Currently much research is focused on trying to improve the outcome of fat transfer. At present we believe that about half of the fat that is injected survives and becomes part of the breast whilst the other half gets absorbed and doesn’t survive. This means that either the half that has been injected is sufficient to achieve a satisfactory change or that a top up is required at a later stage to supplement the volume.
Are there any complications?
Fat transfer is a very safe procedure. It has the advantage that it is carried out through very small incisions and therefore large open wounds are not involved as part of the healing process. Many of the issues associated with open surgery such as bleeding, infection, wound healing etc. are not such issues. It is the relative simplicity of the procedure that also renders very suitable to day case surgery.
There is no evidence to date that fat transfer is linked to or increases the risk of breast cancer. This is an area that has been looked into extensively and fat transfer is used frequently in breast cancer patients to even out irregularities in breasts following surgery.
Techniques around fat harvest and re-injection are improving all the time as is research into stem cells contained in the fat. Trying to gain a better understanding of how fat survives and how stem cells develop and influence the growth and development of tissues is key for the future.
The use of fat is not a passing fad, it is an area which is going to continue growing and become increasingly important as one of the many options in aesthetic breast surgery.