What is Breast Reconstruction by Fat Transfer / Fat Grafting?
Fat Grafting, also called Autologous Fat Transfer, is emerging as a new Breast Reconstruction technique and is widely used in reconstruction of the breast after a Mastectomy or Lumpectomy. In Fat Grafting, fat tissue is removed from other parts of your body -- usually your thighs, belly, and buttocks -- by liposuction. The tissue is then processed into liquid and injected into the breast area to recreate the breast.
What to Expect
When a woman undergoes surgery for Breast Cancer, she can expect to experience the removal of some or all of her breast tissue. For many of these women, an important part of her recovery and reclamation of her normal life is achieved by Breast Reconstruction. And whether it is performed as part of the original Cancer Surgery, or later after her cancer treatment has been completed, Breast Reconstruction using Fat Grafting enhances the shape of the breast, producing natural and attractive results using the material most compatible with a woman's body: her own fat cells.
How Does Fat Grafting for Breast Reconstruction Work?
Fat grafting is used in two ways for Breast Reconstruction:
Post Lumpectomy – during a secondary surgery fat can be injected into the divot that resulted from the Oncological surgeon removing unhealthy tissue.
Post Mastectomy and One-Stage Breast Reconstruction: During a secondary surgery fat can be injected around the breast implant to give patients a fuller, more natural look.
When a patient desires fat transfer for Breast Reconstruction, with the patient’s input Mr Khan chooses a donor site, usually tummy, thighs, or flanks (love handles). The fat is then removed from the area with a special liposuction technique that prevents the living fat cells from being destroyed.
The suctioned fluid is processed into pure fat, which can be selected to create higher enriched stem cell concentrations. Stem cells have unique rejuvenating features, can enhance both the healing and beauty of your final result and are always recommended when the breast has been radiated.
What are the Advantages / Disadvantages of Fat Transfer / Fat Grafting?
The advantages of Fat Grafting are:
It uses your own tissue instead of an implant.
Fat is removed from an area where you don’t want it.
Many women report that their Fat-Graft-Reconstructed Breast has some sensation and feels soft, much like the other unreconstructed breast.
The disadvantages of Fat Grafting are:
No large clinical studies with long-term follow-up have been done on Fat Grafting; while small studies report good results, we don’t know if this technique will work for all women and we also don’t know how long the results will last.
Depending on which surgeon you choose to do the procedure, you may be required to wear the Brava device or another type of external tissue expander for 4 or more weeks before the fat injections and for several weeks after.
It may require 4 to 6 individual sessions to get the best potential results.
The injected fat may be reabsorbed by the body and you may lose some or all of the breast volume over time.
Because some fat cells can stimulate cell growth, some doctors are concerned that fat injected into the breast area may cause dormant breast cancer cells to grow; research needs to be done to find out if this is true.
Some of the fat injected into the breast area may die, which is called “necrosis.” Symptoms of necrosis may include pain and bleeding, the skin turning dark blue or black, numbness, fever, and sores that ooze a bad-smelling discharge or pus.
You may exhaust a key tissue source for a future Flap Reconstruction if fat grafting doesn’t work.
What are the benefits and results of Breast Reconstruction by Fat Transfer?
Most patients can expect to retain anywhere from 50-80% of the fat transferred into your breast. The fat that does successfully take is permanent. There are no incisions made to the breast. Instead, small ports are made with a needle and heal with little to no scar. Patients also benefit by gaining a trimmer, slimmer area of the body from where the fat was harvested. There are two small incisions needed at the fat donor site to harvest the fat, but they are well-hidden and not usually longer then 3mm.
Breast Reconstruction may also entail reconstruction of your Nipple, if you choose, including tattooing to define the dark area of skin surrounding your Nipple (Areola).
Recovery after the Breast Reconstruction Surgery by Fat Transfer
After your Fat grafting Breast Reconstruction Surgery you can expect mild to moderate swelling and bruising of both the breasts and the area from which the fat was harvested. There is usually very little discomfort of the breast after fat grafting and mild to moderate discomfort to the fat harvest site from the liposuction. You will be provided with the proper compression garment to minimize swelling of the fat harvest area.
Because the fat transferred to the breast consists of live cells, you will want to avoid any compression of the breasts for at least 2 weeks to allow the new cells to become integrated into the existing tissue. For this reason, we do not place you in a post-operative bra. You will want to avoid sleeping on your stomach or any other activity that would put direct pressure on your breasts. Most patients find they can return to work in 3-5 days for more sedentary jobs and a week for work that requires more movement.