What are the Risks of Fat Grafting in Breast Reconstruction?
The procedure is performed by removing fat from one area of the body via liposuction and then reinjecting the fat into the chest/breast. Fat grafting can be performed following a lumpectomy to improve breast symmetry and shape. It can be used in conjunction with other breast reconstruction options (like implants or tissue flaps) to improve results. Fat grafting can also be used as a stand-alone procedure to reconstruct a breast after a mastectomy but is typically only recommended for patients who underwent skin-sparing mastectomy and do not desire a large breast size.
Is Fat Grafting Safe?
The surgery is a safe option for patients regardless of how it is utilized in the breast reconstruction journey. However, as will all surgeries there are some risks. Risks include fat reabsorption, necrosis, and infection.
Fat reabsorption is the most common risk associated with fat grafting. Over time your body will use and absorb the fat transferred to your breast. To accommodate for this fat loss, surgeons typically try to inject more fat for a fuller immediate result that will then settle to a smaller size over time. This can make it difficult to achieve a desired breast size in patients seeking full reconstruction following a mastectomy and can take numerous fat grafting sessions to attain outcome goals.
When fat cells die, we refer to this as fat necrosis. It occurs when the fat does not receive enough oxygenated blood during the transfer process. These dead fat cells can form lumps of scar tissue in the breast.
Although the lumps are typically harmless, they can be concerning for breast cancer patients. When this occurs, patients are monitored by their medical team. These lumps may clear up on their own and in some cases revision surgery to remove the scar tissue may be required.
As with any surgery, infection is possible, although rare for fat grafting. If infection does occur, it will typically be at the incision site and can be easily treated with topical antibiotic cream or an oral antibiotic.
Regardless of why fat grafting is being performed, patients should know the surgery is safe and carries a very low risk of complications. Patients must discuss all their options with their surgical team to determine whether fat grafting is a good option to achieve the final desired results.
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