Fat Transfer for Breast Reconstruction

What is fat transfer for breast reconstruction?

Fat transfer for a breast reconstruction involves extracting fat cells from a patient's abdomen, thighs, buttocks or areas where there is an excess, and re-injecting them into the breast. The purpose is to add volume to a breast reconstruction but has the added benefits of rejuvenating skin and bringing in a new, healthy blood supply. Fat transfer can not only be used for reconstruction but also for cosmetic purposes, skin deformities and for traumatic defects. Common areas to have a fat transfer include face, breast and buttocks though it is also suitable for a range of other areas. The techniques of transferring fat have evolved and are constantly being developed.

What are the benefits of this procedure?

Fat transfer offers several major benefits, including the fact that it’s your own cells simply moved from one area to another. It is not from animals or synthetic products and therefore has no risk of allergy or immune rejection. Once the fat has been taken it will remain in the area it has been placed forever.

What happens during a fat transfer procedure?

The procedure is performed under general or local anaesthetic depending on the amount of fat required. The fat is harvested into syringes and cleansed to remove impurities before injecting it into the areas to be treated. Only a certain amount of fat can be injected into an area at one time, to ensure the tissue is not over saturated. Some of this fat (approximately 30%) is expected to reabsorb. Thus depending on the volumes you are looking to achieve several sessions may be required.

Are there any risks* involved?

One of the major potential problems remains the possibility of changes on mammogram, which can mimic cancer. Over 500 cases have been carried out in France and Italy where it has been found that although changes can be seen on mammogram, experienced radiologists have been able to differentiate these from cancer. As an extra precaution, fat is not directly injected into breast tissue, but in the subcutaneous fatty layer above the breast gland. 

Rare complications of fat transfer include: 

  • Small firm lump or “fat necrosis”
  • Contour irregularities and infection. 
All complications will be discussed with you in full by your consultant prior to the procedure. In interest of safety, patients who have this type of treatment must have been screened by mammogram and ultrasound before surgery and followed up with regular mammograms and ultrasound for several years. 

 *Source: BAAPS

What does the recovery involve?

You should be able to go home on the same day that you have your treatment, although this will depend on the extent of the procedure and your individual circumstances. Where possible, any scaring is usually hidden in the natural crease of your body. There is often bruising, redness and/or swelling which usually resolve after a week. We would advise you to avoid any strenuous activity for a few weeks; your consultant will advise you on this.

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