Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation

Overview

What is fat transfer breast augmentation?

A fat transfer breast augmentation uses fat from your body to enlarge your breasts. Surgeons suction fat cells from several areas of your body. They then inject the fat cells into your breasts. Your breasts get bigger while the areas of your body that lost fat cells get smaller.

What is breast augmentation?

Breast augmentation is cosmetic surgery to increase breast size and enhance the shape of your breasts. The goal of this type of plastic surgery is to change your appearance. Some people call this procedure a “boob job.”

What are the types of breast augmentation?

Breast augmentation may take place using:

What’s the difference between breast augmentation and breast reconstruction?

Breast augmentation is for healthy people who want to improve their appearance. It isn’t medically necessary. You can use breast implants or fat transfer for breast augmentation.

Breast reconstruction takes place after breast cancer surgery. It recreates one or both breasts after a mastectomy (breast removal). You must get breast implants for breast reconstruction.

Should I get a fat transfer breast augmentation?

Choosing a breast augmentation method is a personal decision. You may consider this procedure if you want slightly larger breasts but don’t want breast implants.

Who should not get a fat transfer breast augmentation?

People who have little body fat may not be good candidates for fat transfer. Your provider has to be able to remove more fat cells than they’ll use. That’s because some cells die off during the process. People with low body fat may need breast implants instead.

People who have obesity, experience drastic weight fluctuations or smoke may not be good candidates either. Ideally, you should be in good health, a nonsmoker and able to maintain a weight that’s healthy for you.

Procedure Details

Who performs fat transfer breast augmentations?

Cosmetic surgeons perform fat transfer breast augmentations. These plastic surgeons are medical doctors who specialize in aesthetic procedures that enhance a person’s appearance.

What happens during a fat transfer breast augmentation?

A fat transfer breast augmentation is an outpatient procedure. You go home the same day. You receive general anesthesia to help you sleep through the surgery.

During the procedure, your provider:

  • Uses liposuction to harvest fat deposits from several areas of your body.
  • Runs the fat cells through a centrifuge device to remove any impurities.
  • Uses special syringes to inject the purified fat cells into different tissue layers inside of your breasts.

How long does a fat transfer breast augmentation last?

The results from a fat transfer breast augmentation are lifelong. It can take up to six months to see the final results. During this time, the fat cells settle into their new places, where they remain for life. Because some cells die after the injection, providers inject more fat cells than needed during the transfer.

Most people who undergo fat transfer breast augmentations are satisfied with the results. If you’re dissatisfied, your provider may recommend another fat transfer procedure.

Risks / Benefits

What are the risks of a fat transfer breast augmentation?

Risks of a fat transfer breast augmentation include:

  • Bleeding and bruising.
  • Fat cell death (necrosis) or fat cells moving out of your breasts to different parts of your body.
  • Infection.
  • Noncancerous (benign) breast cysts or breast calcifications.

What are the benefits of fat transfer breast augmentation over breast implants?

Fat transfer breast augmentation is a natural way to enhance breast shape and size. Surgeons use liposuction to remove fat from your belly, hips, back, legs or arms. These areas of your body become smaller.

Your provider injects the fat cells into your breasts to make them bigger. Because breasts have a lot of fatty tissue, adding more fat gives the breasts a natural look and feel.

Breast augmentation using breast implants involves artificial shells filled with silicone gel or saline (sterile saltwater). A surgeon places the implants underneath your skin.

With breast implants:

  • You need replacement surgery every 10 to 15 years.
  • You may need tissue expansion a few weeks before the procedure. A surgically implanted balloon stretches the skin on your breast so it can accommodate the implant and increased size.
  • You’re at risk for an implant hardening or rupturing. In that case, you’ll need surgery to remove and replace the implant.
  • Severe scarring called capsular contracture can occur around the implant. This can cause severe pain. It also increases your risk of blood clots.
  • You may develop breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma. This rare cancer affects your immune system. It isn’t breast cancer. Treatment involves removing the breast implant. Some people need chemotherapy.

What are the cons of fat transfer breast augmentation?

Some downsides of fat transfer breast augmentation include:

  • Smaller breast size: Fat transfer increases breast size by one or two cup sizes. If you want larger breasts, you’ll need breast implants.
  • Sagging breasts: A fat transfer makes breasts larger, but breasts may still sag. You need a breast lift to get firm-looking breasts. A vampire breast lift is a nonsurgical augmentation procedure that uses injections of platelet-rich plasma to lift breasts.
  • Repeat procedures: You may need multiple fat transfer procedures to achieve the results you want.

Recovery and Outlook

What is recovery like after a fat transfer breast augmentation?

Your healthcare provider will wrap an elastic bandage around your chest and fit you with a surgical bra. These bindings help the fat deposits settle into place. You should plan to take a week off from work and other physical activities.

You may have pain, bruising, swelling and discomfort in your breasts and liposuctioned areas for up to three weeks. Swelling may persist for up to six months.

These steps can ease your recovery:

  • Sleep on your back to keep pressure off of your breasts.
  • Take antibiotics and pain relievers as directed by your provider.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing to avoid compressing your breasts.

When to Call the Doctor

When should I call the doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Excessive bleeding, swelling or bruising.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Severe pain.
  • Signs of infection like yellow discharge or fever.

Additional Details

Does a fat transfer breast augmentation affect breast cancer risk or mammograms?

A fat transfer breast augmentation doesn’t increase your risk of breast cancer. And mammograms still work well for most people after this procedure.

Your breasts contain fatty tissue and breast tissue. Fatty tissue looks dark on a mammogram. Tumors look white against this dark tissue. Even when augmentation adds more fat to your breasts, tumors are still easily visible.

But a fat transfer breast augmentation can cause microcalcifications. These calcium deposits look like small white spots on a mammogram.

Most microcalcifications aren’t a sign of cancer. But microcalcifications sometimes cluster in your breast due to a type of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). To rule out cancer, your healthcare provider may recommend more tests like a breast ultrasound, MRI or needle biopsy.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

A fat transfer breast augmentation is a cosmetic procedure to enlarge your breasts. Surgeons use liposuction to harvest fat cells from your stomach, hips, thighs, back or arms. Afterward, these areas look slimmer. Providers inject the fat cells into your breasts, where they remain for life. A fat transfer procedure carries fewer risks than breast implants. However, it only slightly enlarges the breasts and doesn’t firm them up. For these effects, you need a breast lift or breast implants.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/18/2022.

References

  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Breast Augmentation (Augmentation Mammaplasty). (https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/breast-augmentation) Accessed 8/18/2022.
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons. What Is Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation? (https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/fat-transfer-breast-augmentation) Accessed 8/18/2022.
  • Bayram Y, Sezgic M, Karakol P, Bozkurt M, Filinte GT. The use of autologous fat grafts in breast surgery: A literature review. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6882697/) Arch Plast Surg. 2019;46(6):498-510. Accessed 8/18/2022.

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