Do you want larger breasts, but you’re afraid of implants? Fat grafting may be an option to give you larger breasts that are completely made of your own tissue.
What is fat grafting?
Fat grafting is a process that basically moves fat from one part of your body do another. First liposuction removes the fat. Spinning the fat in a centrifuge separates the healthy fat cells from any blood or fluid present (numbing fluid is usually injected during liposuction). The fat is then injected into the new area. The injected fat gets nutrients from the tissue around it until new blood vessels grow into and around it. Not all of the fat survives, but what does becomes a permanent part of the breast.
- Fat is taken from one part of your body (commonly the stomach)
- The fat is processed- washed, centrifuged etc- then injected into the breasts
- The fat becomes part of the breast. Not all of the fat survives.
Does fat grafting work for breast augmentation?
Fat grafting does work as a method of breast augmentation, but there are limitations. If too much fat is transferred at one time, the fat won’t get enough nutrients from the surrounding tissue, and it will die. This results in what’s called an oil cyst- basically a little pocket of liquified fat. And as I mentioned above, some of the fat does not survive the grafting process. This means that you’ll need more than one session of fat grafting to get a significant increase in breast size. And each session means a trip to the operating room.
One other limitation is how much fat you actually have. Unless you have an identical twin, I can only take fat from your own body to inject, as your immune system would quickly attack and kill any “foreign” fat. So if you’re fairly thin, you won’t have enough fat to achieve a significant size increase.
Are there any other problems with fat grafting?
The donor site, i.e. where we harvest the fat from, will be sore and bruised after surgery. So this means additional healing compared to simply getting breast implants.
In addition, fat contains stem cells: cells that can turn into different types of cells. This is in comparison to differentiated cells. For example, skin cells can only make more skin cells, muscles cells can only make more muscle cells etc. But stem cells could turn into muscle, or skin, or fat. It’s possible stem cells could somehow increase the risk of breast cancer. The current data we have suggests this isn’t an issue, but we definitely need to do more long term research before we know for sure.
Who is fat grafting a good option for?
You’ve probably concluded by now that fat grafting isn’t a great option for a simple breast augmentation. Breast implants will give you a more reliable result in a shorter amount of time, and only require a single surgery. But fat grafting is a good option in select cases:
- Women with breast asymmetry: if the size difference if fairly small, fat grafting can make the breasts more similar in size permanently.
- To reconstruct breasts after breast cancer: having a lumpectomy creates a tissue deficit, and doing fat grafting is great way to correct this.
- Improving contour: fat grafting can make breast implants less visible or more natural appearing in women who had breast augmentation or breast reconstruction.
What does fat grafting cost?
Even when done for asymmetry or breast reconstruction, fat grafting is rarely covered by insurance. Insurance companies often consider it experimental, even though the technique has been around for over a decade.
The out of pocket cost usually depend on time. The more fat that is transferred, the longer the time in the OR. And the more round of surgery you have, the higher the cost as well. Do you have questions about fat grafting? I’d love to hear them in the comments, or bring them to my facebook page.
Dr. Greer is a Plastic Surgeon who practices in Cleveland, OH. Her passion is helping moms regain self-confidence by getting rid of sagginess, wrinkles, and stubborn fat. Read more about her at www.greerplastics.com.