Otherwise known as lipofilling, fat transfer is a popular procedure in Europe primarily used during breast reconstruction surgery. However, cosmetic surgeons are now utilising this technique on its own, or in conjunction with breast augmentation to provide a natural, full look.
We’re thrilled to be one of the leading cosmetic surgery teams offering the fat transfer procedure to our Australian patients very soon.
What exactly is Fat Transfer?
Fat transfer is a procedure where fat is harvested from one part of the patient’s body in small clusters through liposuction. Areas that are ideal for fat harvesting are those with ample natural fat deposits, commonly referred to as the ‘problem areas’. The abdomen, hips and inner or outer thighs are often chosen as there is usually plenty of viable adipose tissue and the removal of fat will reduce volume, which can result in a more aesthetically pleasing contour.
The harvested fat is then processed where it is filtered and purified, separating the fat from blood and other bodily fluids. During this process, the quantity of adipose tissue collected is almost halved, which is why it’s important to harvest the fat from areas of the body with sufficient volume.
Using thin needles, the living fat cells are then immediately injected under the skin into tissues to improve the fullness and shape of the breast. By depositing the fat in small streams it increases the likelihood the blood will grow into the tissues.
Fat transfer is a relatively non-invasive surgery, and once available will be performed under conscious sedation (not General anaesthesia). Most patients can return to work within 1 week post-surgery, and vigorous exercise is restricted 4-6 weeks after the procedure.
Fat transfer traditionally used for breast cancer surgery
Plastic surgeons worldwide have been using fat transfer for breast cancer survivors as part of their breast reconstruction surgery. It has been found to be beneficial in correcting small asymmetry issues, balancing the breast fullness or fixing defects in the shape, which may be due to tumour removal or surgical trauma.
Up until recently, however, there has been a reluctance to use the fat transfer technique because of the concern it may increase the risk the breast cancer reoccurring.
Promising research published in the Annals of Oncology suggests women who undergo fat transfer after their breast cancer surgery or reconstruction are at no greater risk of cancer coming back than those who have never undergone the cosmetic procedure.
The women of the study had all been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and as a result, had either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. A total of 321 women, who had undergone lipofilling 26 months after their breast cancer reconstruction, were compared with 642 women who didn’t have the fat transfer procedure.
During their follow-up consultation, 9 out of the 321 fat transfer patients were diagnosed with recurrent breast cancer in the same area. Out of the 642 women who didn’t receive fat transfer, 19 women experienced recurrent cancer.
These figures suggest breast cancer is no more likely to reoccur in patients who undergo the cosmetic fat transfer procedure when compared to those who don’t.
More surgeons are using fat transfer to improve breast shape and fullness
Today, fat transfer isn’t just being used for breast cancer patients. As it utilises the patient’s own tissues, the procedure has been accepted as a way to cosmetically restore the breast volume in those women unhappy with their current physic.
The fat transfer technique is considered to help:
- Provide more volume in cases where only a moderate increase in size is required
- In breast augmentation where implants are not desired or contraindicated
- To improve irregularities such as wrinkles or rippling, which have occurred during breast implant surgery
- To balance out symmetry of the breasts, especially due to tumour removal, congenital defects or breast reconstruction
- Improve the quality of skin and scars after cancer treatment
There are several advantages of using fat transfer to improve breast shape and fullness which is driving its popularity in the cosmetic industry. These include:
- It uses the patient’s own fat tissue
- It’s permanent
- It may reduce the need for breast implants
- The incision required may be smaller, if not using an implant
- There is reduced risk of allergic reactions
- Unwanted fat is removed from other areas of the body
- No visible scars
- Can be used to correct post-surgical defects
- It’s affordable
- Minimal pain and downtime
The procedure itself is considered to be very safe, with little risks. Possibly one of the main concerns with the treatment is that in order for the fat to survive when injected in healthy tissue it requires good blood supply.
Therefore, it is preferred that only small volumes of fat are injected into the desired area, as excessive injection of fat means a higher percentage won’t take and will be reabsorbed into the body. Fat cells that have remained healthy after three months of being transferred will remain in the body permanently.
The BRAVA method may enhance the result of fat grafting
An average of 70 percent of the fat grafted remains present three months’ post procedure and therefore will be permanent. As not 100 percent of the fat survives, in order to achieve the desired results of increased volume and fullness, the majority of patients will require two procedures.
Several techniques have been explored to increase the amount of fat that permanently survives following the cosmetic treatment. The BRAVA method is one that we consider to be the most superior. This involves a vacuum device to be placed over the breasts and worn for several weeks prior to the fat grafting treatment, as well as for a period after the procedure.
While somewhat inconvenient for patients, the BRAVA method results in an increased volume and blood flow to the breasts due to the suction of the device increasing the stretch in the breast. At Cosmos Clinic, we will be encouraging our clients to consider putting up with the slight inconvenience in return for better results.
Is fat transfer right for you?
The fat transfer procedure has numerous advantages and can benefit many women looking for a natural breast enhancement. One of the biggest being, you’re removing unwanted fat from one area and putting it in an area you actually would like volume!
Although, as there are limitations to the amount of volume which can be achieved, using fat transfer won’t necessarily be able to create as much volume as you would see in a classic breast augmentation surgery using implants.
Fat transfer can be used in conjunction with breast implants to help smooth out the skin, and even out the border surrounding the implant. This is particularly relevant for very slim patients where the edge of the implant in some cases, can remain visible.
In patients who are receiving a mastoplasty where implants are not suitable or are undesirable, fat transfer can be used to provide a degree of fullness. It should, however, not be considered a substitution for breast augmentation due to the limitations on the amount of volume that can be achieved.
The benefits and possibilities of fat transfer have more surgeons using it to help achieve natural, full breasts in those patients wanting breast augmentation. We’re excited to be making this technique available at Cosmos Clinic in the near future. To find out more about this innovative treatment, contact us here.