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Structural Fat Grafting for Breast Augmentation

In addition to more traditional surgical procedures for breast augmentation, the UPMC Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery offers structural fat grafting. This technique uses fat from your own body to enlarge and uplift the breasts instead of silicone or saline implants. In the procedure, your doctor harvests fat from one or multiple areas of your body with liposuction and moves it to your breasts. Structural fat grafting can create a natural, long-lasting result with minimal incisions and limited scarring.

Is Fat Grafting for Breast Augmentation Right for Me?

Because fat grafting uses fat from the patient’s own body for breast augmentation instead of silicone or saline implants, there is less chance for rejection. This means that the procedure is open to many candidates. It can be especially useful for people unsatisfied with their breasts who also have excess fat.

Before the Procedure

Before undergoing structural fat grafting for breast enhancement, you will meet with the surgical team to learn about the procedure and see results from past cases. You will discuss your medical history and goals for the procedure.

The surgeon will examine you, and a team member will photograph your body. These photos will be used to create a custom plan for your surgery.

The plan will detail how you want your breasts to look while also improving your body by harvesting fat. The team will create a color-coded blueprint, which shows the locations of:

  • The fat harvesting sites
  • Your desired breast size and shape changes
  • The spots where the surgeon will make the tiny incisions for the procedure

Procedure Details

Using the color-coded blueprint, our team will mark your body, showing where they will harvest and place fat.

The procedure begins with harvesting fat from your body, either from one location or multiple. If one area has a particularly large amount of excess fat, that might serve as the only harvest site. Body areas that the team will consider include:

  • Outer thighs
  • Love handles
  • Abdomen
  • Flank
  • Inner thighs
  • Knees
  • Calves
  • Arms

The surgeon will use manual liposuction for fat harvesting, removing it by hand. After the harvesting, the team will use a centrifuge to refine and concentrate the tissue by removing blood, oil, and water. The team then uses the refined tissue to carefully sculpt each breast, creating a natural look.

Your doctor will place tiny amounts of the fat at a time, making thousands of passes through small entrances in the lower fold of the breast and areola.

The procedure takes between three and five hours.

Type of Anesthesia

Most structural fat grafting takes place under general anesthesia. In more minor cases, doctors can use local anesthesia with sedation.

Recovery from Fat Grafting

Your recovery from structural fat grafting depends mainly on how many donor sites your doctor used for fat. You will likely experience bruising and swelling in those areas for at least a week. Your breasts may be bruised and swollen, but in most cases, you’ll experience little or no pain. Soreness can last for approximately two weeks after the surgery.

You may be able to return to work in about a week. Most bruising and swelling should go away within about three weeks, but minor swelling can linger for up to six months.

You should walk as much as possible beginning the day after surgery and can return to light exercise in 10 days to two weeks. You should not put pressure on the breasts. You should sleep on your back and avoid excess lifting or upper body activity.

Anticipated Results

In general, each surgery can increase your breasts by one cup size. Any enlargement beyond that would usually require additional procedures.

Structural fat grafting can last longer than traditional implants, which may need replacement over time. While fat is an easily damaged tissue, the structural fat grafting method injects fat to give it access to a blood supply, which makes it last. Whatever growth remains after about four months after surgery will be permanent.

The procedure also allows the surgeon to more easily shape your breasts than with silicone or saline implants.

Risks and Safety

Complications are rare with structural fat grafting, but those that can occur include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Irregularities
  • Placing too much or too little fat

Calcification and lumps can appear after fat transfer, just as with other breast procedures.

The American Society of Plastic Surgery has determined that structural fat grafting to the breast is safe and does not lead to a higher rate of breast cancer. There also is no evidence that fat grafting to the breast makes it more difficult to detect breast cancer.

Benefits of Fat Grafting for Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation can improve the size and shape of breasts and correct asymmetry.

Structural fat grafting specifically can lift sagging breasts, improve shape, and even cover up existing implants.

Other benefits of structural fat grafting for breast augmentation include:

  • A more natural procedure. Instead of using saline or silicone, this method takes fat from your own body. It prevents rejection and leaves less scarring.
  • A longer-lasting result. While other implants may need replacement over time, fat transfer is permanent.
  • A more pleasing body overall. Structural fat grafting takes fat from other areas of your body, so the procedure slims down those areas.
  • Better shaping. Compared to implants, which offer limited options, structural fat grafting allows your surgeon to create a custom look for you.
  • Minimal incisions and scarring.