Fat transfer is widely used in reconstruction of the breast after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. It can also be very effective in correcting the size and shape of the breasts due to genetic problems such as tuberous breast or Poland Syndrome, two conditions that present as misshapen or underdeveloped breasts.
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.
Fat transfers have a long history in medicine and have been performed for over a century. For years, doctors have been using patients' own fat to restore areas of the body affected by illness or injury, or to improve the appearance of certain trouble spots that deflate with age. Successful fat grafting, however, is very technique dependent. There is a specific way that the fat must be harvested, processed, and transferred to the new area as it is moving living cells to a new area. Our surgeons are experts at fat grafting, making their breast reconstruction with fat grafting even more successful.
Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Lisa Cassileth, an innovator in breast reconstruction surgery, understands the difficulties faced by women undergoing breast cancer treatment extremely well. Each year, our doctors perform hundreds of breast reconstruction surgeries, many involving fat grafting procedures.
Fat grafting is used in two ways for breast reconstruction:
When a patient desires fat transfer for breast reconstruction, with the patient’s input the doctor 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.
One of our Beverly Hills plastic surgeons then skillfully and meticulously inject hundreds of tiny individual fat droplets into the breast site using an instrument called a cannula. This technique prevents bleeding from the small vessels in and around the tissue, therefore thereby preventing death of the transferred fat cells (fat necrosis). The fat is then incorporated within the existing matrix of adipose (fat) tissue and the breasts enlarge 'naturally'.
Dr. Cassileth was the voice of reason in a time of trauma and the unknown. Finally, a doctor who understood me! She even gave me options for the type of implants, and we talked about a tram flap vs expanders and fat grafting. She also constructed my nipples, and they look 100% real and natural!"
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.
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.
To find out precisely what fat grafting breast reconstruction options are available to you, and how best to achieve the look that you want, call our office at 310.278.8200 to make an appointment for a consultation with one of our Beverly Hills plastic surgeons, or click here to schedule online.