I perform fat transfer breast augmentations as an alternative treatment option for women seeking a modest breast enhancement without the use of implants. Fat transfer breast augmentation, also known as stem cell breast augmentation or natural breast augmentation, is used to increase the size of the breasts using the patient’s own fat. Fat tissue is harvested from donor sites on your body. Harvest areas include the thighs, flanks, and abdomen. Next, the fat is then purified and strategically deposited as tiny droplets throughout several layers of the breast, affecting an enhancement of the native breast tissue. The result is a modest augmentation of the breast without the use of implants.

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Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation Overview

Liposuction is performed at the beginning of the procedure to harvest the fat tissue that will later be deposited within the breast.

Advantages of a natural breast enhancement include eliminating the downside risk of developing capsular contractures, minimal scars as compared to a traditional breast augmentation, as well as maintaining the soft feeling of the natural breast. Patients who are wary of implants and are seeking a modest increase in breast size can be very pleased with the results afforded by fat-transfer breast augmentation. Additionally, and in select cases, fat transfer may also be utilized to create balance in anatomically asymmetric breasts.

Procedure Walk-Through

  1. Preparation: In preparation for a natural breast enhancement, or any invasive surgical procedure that you are considering, you should stop taking all blood-thinning medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen, herbs, and vitamins two weeks before undergoing surgery. It is necessary that you avoid smoking for at least two weeks prior to and after the surgery. Lastly, abstinence from alcoholic beverages for a period of 2 weeks is advised. The patient must first be medically cleared by their personal physician prior to surgery if they are over the age of 45.
    Additionally, and in special circumstances, I may recommend that you wear a soft tissue expander, such as the Brava device, for a period of time before surgery. The bra-like device slowly stretches the skin and underlying tissue to create a structural matrix that will better receive the implanted fat tissue. This allows for a higher chance that the grafted tissue will “take” or vascularize well, and helps achieve greater increases in final breast volume. To be effective, the Brava expanders are typically worn for a period of 6-12 weeks for the majority of the day. Because of this, many patients are reluctant to use this device, although research suggests that it is very effective.
  2. Anesthesia: General anesthesia will be administered. In select cases where I utilize fat-grafting to correct a symmetry-related issue of the breast, it may be possible to perform the procedure either under sedation, using a regional block, or with a local anesthetic.
  3. Liposuction will be used to harvest fat tissue from one or more donor sites (usually the thighs of abdomen) on the patient’s body. The fat is then purified and prepared for injection into the breast tissue.
  4. The fat is then injected as microdroplets through a multitude of small punctures throughout several layers of breast tissue.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is a good fat transfer breast augmentation candidate?

You should consider fat transfer breast augmentation if you are interested in only a slight to modest increase in breast size, are opposed to or uncomfortable with the idea of silicone or saline-filled implants, or are allergic to one or more of the materials used in implants.

How long is the recovery for fat transfer breast augmentation surgery?

Following fat transfer breast augmentation surgery, you may need assistance from a friend or family member for a few days. This should be arranged well before your surgery. For most patients, recovery time is less than that of breast implants, as no incisions are made in the breast and there is no sub-muscular implant pocket developed, which lends to the “typical” post-operative discomfort in the standard approach. Instead, the fat is strategically deposited in microdroplets throughout the breast parenchyma using a multitude of small punctures. Incisions at the donor sites (or areas on the patient’s body where the fat was extracted for use in the procedure) are minimal, and mirror that of incision used in liposuction.

The patient may also be advised to wear a soft tissue expander, such as the Brava device, for several weeks prior to the procedure to ensure that maximum volume is gained through the procedure. Dr. Vallecillos will be able to determine the best pre and post-operative care, tailored to your specific needs.

Are there risks with fat transfer breast augmentation?

Following breast augmentation surgery, it is common to have bruising, swelling, and breast tenderness for several days. The risk of infection following fat transfer breast augmentation is low, and somewhere around 1%. Lastly, over time, the body may reabsorb some of the grafted fat tissue, which can lead to a decrease in attained volume of the breast.

It is important to note that the procedure is still evolving and further studies are required to ascertain its long-term effectiveness. In addition to the chance that the body will reabsorb the grafted fat, complications can include cell necrosis (or death of the grafted tissue), infection, and asymmetry, all of which could require additional procedures. Patients should discuss side effects, risks and benefits with Dr. Vallecillos before considering a fat transfer breast augmentation.

How long do the results last following fat transfer breast augmentation?

While using an “autologous fat transfer” or fat graft of your own tissue is beneficial in many ways, the grafted fat is susceptible to being reabsorbed by the body. The body can reabsorb from 30-50% of the transferred fat, and varies depending on how well the grafted tissue “takes,” or vascularizes, in the breast. While patients should expect the augmentation to be permanent, these changes within the body may render a later procedure necessary.

Fat reabsorption and lack of 100% fat “take” is a consequence of two essential factors. First, despite all attempts to preserve the fat during harvesting, preparation and transfer, a small percentage of the fat cells will be damaged in the process and will ultimately perish and be reabsorbed by the body through natural processes.

The second reason why some fat cells are not successful in being transferred is blood supply. All cells of the body require oxygen to survive, and oxygen as we know reaches all cells through hemoglobin in the blood. When fat cells are transferred from one point to another, the blood supply is disrupted. A new blood supply for the fat must develop in the recipient area in order for the new fat cells to “take” and eventually survive. The process of developing a new blood supply can take several days to weeks. In the interim, the fat cells can survive from the existing blood supply in the recipient area, but only to an extent, with the determining factor being how far the transferred fat cell is from a stable surrounding blood supply. If too much fat is transferred at any one time, it becomes physiologically impossible for oxygen from the local blood supply to reach the fat cells, and the fat cells then die. This is why there is an upper limit to how much fat can be transferred successfully at any one procedure.