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Breast Fat Graft

Breast Fat Transfer (Graft) in Greater San Antonio

Breast Fat Graft San Antonio TX | Breast Fat Graft

What is fat transfer?

Fat transfer or grafting to the breast is one of the more exciting current techniques in breast surgery.  Fat grafting involves obtaining or harvesting fat cells from one part of the body (typically abdomen or thighs) by liposuction, and then  the fat is injected into the breast tissue.  The fat will then be able to provide bulk for breast enlargement, like augmentation with fat! A natural breast shape can also be created depending on the amount of fat transferred.  

Not only can fat transfer be used in primary breast augmentation, it can also be used in implant revision surgery, for instance, to help mask or camouflage an existing implant. Depending on the volume of fat moved, implant rippling and breast feel can improve.  The procedure can be repeated as many times as necessary as long as there are adequate donor sites.  

Better still, the recovery for 'autologous fat grafting' is fairly straight-forward, and is essentially the same as cosmetic liposuction.  Many patients see fat transfer breast augmentation as two surgeries in one: improving the look and feel of their breasts while also contouring their bellies or thighs!  Dr. Albright notes very high patient satisfaction when combining fat grafting with other cosmetic procedures.  

Fat grafting is an excellent stand-alone or adjunct procedure for cosmetic breast surgery, such as breast augmentation, breast implant adjustment, and breast lifts.  With fat grafting, we are using your own tissue to provide breast volume and increase cup size.  For breast lifts, the grafted fat can provide more volume to the top of the breast and help with overall breast shape/contour.  The fat when strategically placed can help improve implant step offs and visible implant rippling.  

Breast reconstruction patients also benefit from fat grafting.  By increasing the soft tissue coverage in the reconstructed breast, fat grafting helps create a more natural feeling and looking breast.  It can be used to help achieve better symmetry when trying to match your other nonreconstructed ‘native’ breast.  Furthermore, many surgeons believe fat grafting can also improve the quality of the breast skin after radiation treatment, although this is still being studied.  

Breast Fat Transfer FAQ’s

Is fat grafting safe in the breast?

Studies have shown cancer safety of fat grafting even in the setting of patients with previous breast cancers or family history of breast cancer. Dr. Albright recommends obtaining breast imaging (mammogram/ultrasound/MRI) before surgery to ensure there is not currently a problem with the breast, and to act as a baseline for radiologists to compare future images against. The FDA and the American Society of Plastic Surgery continue to study the safety of fat-transferring procedures.

So my fat is used instead of a regular breast implant?

Yes and no... The transferred fat is adding to the overall volume of the breast, but does not quite maintain its shape like a traditional breast implant. This is best seen at the top of the fat grafted breast. This will still have a more natural smooth transition whereas, depending on the implant, a traditional breast augmentation can have more projection and rounding of the top of the breast. Also different is the degree of volume change that can occur in one surgery. With the breast implant, you are assured of how much volume is being put into the breast versus fat grafting which has some fat volume loss after the surgery (fat that did not survive the relocation).

What are the downsides of fat grafting to the breasts?

A significant downside of fat grafting is the occasionally unpredictable survival of the grafted fat. Studies have shown and Dr. Albright’s experience supports the assertion that about one-half to two-thirds of the transferred fat will survive at one year after surgery. There are many factors that are involved with fat graft survival including thickness and quality of blood supply in the recipient breast tissue.  The technique is dependent on well vascularized tissues, therefore patients with significant previous breast scars or those who actively use nicotine are not ideal candidates. Grafted fat that does not survive will be broken down overtime, and can create areas of ‘fat necrosis’ or oil cysts.  As a board certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Albright will discuss these issues with you and attempt to answer all of your questions so that you feel comfortable with this powerful technique.

When will I see my final results after fat grafting to the breasts?

Although variable between patients, most patients will notice what fat graft has taken and what has not by about 3-4 months after the procedure. Further clouding the picture is the fact that patients also have normal postoperative swelling in the tissues, which can change the perceived volume of the breasts. This is also why Dr. Albright recommends waiting between fat grafting surgeries to make sure the patient has achieved a stable result before committing to additional surgery.

What are the scars like from breast augmentation fat transfer?

The incisions on the breast are very small incisions. They are only as big as needed to get the small blunt-tip cannula (used to inject the fat) into the breast. Dr. Albright will attempt to hide the access incisions typically around the areola edge (pigmented skin around the areola), as well as the lower fold of the breast. The incisions will typically have 1-2 stitches placed at the skin level and tape or glue covering that. Although still small scars, the donor site (where the fat is taken from) will typically have slightly longer incisions than the breast because the harvesting cannula is bigger.

Can I pick where I take the fat from?

It depends. Traditionally Dr. Albright prefers areas on the body that are easily accessible in one position. For example, taking fat from the upper back would require your body to be repositioned during the procedure, and this will add to the time of the procedure.  Increased time can increase your risk and potentially decrease the viability of the fat, if it spends too much time out of the body before re-injecting.
For these reasons, Dr. Albright does not recommend taking it from the back, unless that is the only place on your body with adequate supply. Most commonly patients will have adequate and bothersome fat deposits that are more safely accessed, like the belly or the thighs. Still have questions, come see us today to discuss.

I've heard that there are strange suction-cups that you wear on your breasts before fat grafting, is this true?

Some plastic surgeons will apply a suction-cup-like device to the breasts before surgery in an effort to increase the blood flow into the tissues. It is thought that this may increase fat graft survival, and increase how much fat can be grafted into the breasts at one surgery. This is still somewhat controversial.
Dr. Albright finds that patient's are not interested in wearing these preoperative devices due to inconvenience and cost. Additionally, Dr. Albright finds that his patients have less fat graft survival with high volume fat transfers to the breasts. Finally, if you were to transfer truly large volumes of fat to the breast, the breast will behave more like a large fatty breast... Which is to say, that the breast will likely hang over time. This is because fat does not maintain its shape like an implant.

I've heard that there have been deaths from fat grafting!?!

When fat grafting to the buttocks (brazilian butt lift), there have been several high profile deaths. This seems to be related to both surgeon technique AND inherently higher risk area based on anatomy. When fat grafting to the buttocks, there are very large veins that can be injured and then allow grafted fat to enter the circulation.  This can create fatal fat emboli.
Unlike the buttock/pelvis, the vessels of the breast are smaller and less likely to be injured with the smaller blunt tip injecting cannulas used for the breast. This is another reason Dr. Albright does not perform high-volume fat transfer to the breast, so as to limit the risk of vessel injury and fat emoblization.

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Dr. Albright and his staff are extremely skilled and knowledge. Being an RN and knowing details about surgical complications and post op infection risks, I wouldn’t go to any other plastic surgeons in town. He absolutely wants the best results and is willing to take the time needed to achieve that goal. Dr. Albright is realistic about expectations and outcomes and takes the time during procedures to do it right. I highly recommend Dr. Albright without reservations. ”
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Katie Moon
Alamo Plastic Surgery San Antonio TX | Team - Dr. Albright, Franchesca Espinosa, Juli Albright
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