Fat Grafting in Breast Reconstruction – What You Need To Know

By: Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo

Blogs
January 22, 2012

Fat grafting has been in the news a fair amount so I thought I’d give you a brief run-down of what’s involved….

Fat grafting, as a technique, has been around for many years but has recently experienced a resurgence in breast surgery. The procedure involves liposuctioning fat from one part of the patient’s body, purifying it and then injected into the breast.

Fat grafting can be used to fill-in partial breast defects after lumpectomy. It is also frequently used after mastectomy, usually in conjunction with other reconstructive techniques, to optimize the breast contour and improve overall cosmetic results.

There are several fat grafting techniques that are used by plastic surgeons. There is no “set way” that has been shown to be the best in terms of long-term results. However, studies have shown that regardless of the technique used, the collection, storage, and transplantation of the fat cells (and fat stem cells they contain) must be optimized to obtain the best long-lasting results.

Studies have also shown that once the injected fat “takes”, it can also help improve the thickness and quality of tissues and skin damaged by radiation.

Regardless of technique, some of the injected fat will be reabsorbed over time but this can vary depending on the exact clinical situation. Patients must therefore be prepared to require more than one procedure for the best results.

As for the risks…. For women still undergoing regular mammograms, it is also important to know that fat grafting can also cause calcifications known as “MACRO-calcifications”. As many of you have already unfortunately experienced, breast cancer can also cause calcifications, known as “MICRO-calcifications”. According to the American Society of Radiology, these different types of calcifications are easily distinguishable. Having said that, I still tell my patients that fat grafting can potentially lead to the recommendation for further tests in the future because of calcifications.

Injected fat can also become firm or create “oil cysts”. Fortunately these are becoming much less frequent as techniques are refined but again, both of these can cause “unnecessary” stress.

Several independent studies that have evaluated patients over a few years after the procedure have shown that fat grafting is oncologically safe. However, because the technique is fairly new, little long-term safety data is currently available.

Unfortunately not all insurance companies cover the cost of fat grafting so the procedure can involve out of pocket expenses for some patients.

Learn More About Fat Grafting

4 Comments

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  • Cyndi

    My dr has said I need this, but my insurance is refusing to approve. I’ve had a double mastectomy and in dire need of fat grafting. Please help!

    Reply
  • PRMA Plastic Surgery

    Good morning Cyndi! There are some circumstances where insurance may deem fat grafting cosmetic depending on how significant the deformity of the breast is. Unfortunately there is not much that can be done after insurance has denied the authorization, but there may be financial assistance programs available. You can try reaching out to your local American Cancer Society for more information about assistance programs in your area.

    Reply
  • Michelle

    I had a failed tram flap surgery and im lost at what is the next possible option for me to have me whole again

    Reply
  • PRMA Plastic Surgery

    So sorry to hear this Michelle! There are many options available today! The best place to start to see what procedure may be best for you is to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon. The surgeons at PRMA Plastic Surgery specialize in advanced breast reconstruction and correcting “failed” breast reconstruction. If you would like to set up a consultation you can give us a call at 800.692.5565 or you can fill out our free virtual consultation form at http://prma-enhance.com/patient-forms/virtual-consultation

    Reply
PRMA Plastic Surgery