What is Fat Grafting?
Fat grafting or fat transfer consists of harvesting fat cells from one part of the body (abdomen, hips, etc) via liposuction and then injecting these fat cells into another part of the body (face, buttocks, hands, breasts). Fat grafting is a technique that has been around for a long time and is commonly used by most plastic surgeons in at least one or two avenues.
What can Fat Grafting be used for?
Fat grafting can be used for both cosmetic and reconstruction surgery. We commonly use fat grafting as a means of facial rejuvenation, whether alone or in conjunction with a traditional face lift. In this way it works similarly to fillers by helping to give volume to places such as the nasolabial folds, marionette lines, cheeks and lips. Fat grafting is also used commonly to add volume to the buttocks or to help achieve the desired round shape of the buttocks. In our practice we also very commonly use fat grafting as part of our implant based breast reconstruction. We use fat to fill out the upper pole of the breast where there is naturally some concavity after a mastectomy.
What are the risks of Fat Grafting?
Just like any other procedure that we perform, there are certain risks associated with fat grafting. Risks that exist for all of the surgeries we perform include infection, bleeding, poor scar formation, asymmetry and need for revision surgery. Specific to fat grafting, the biggest risk is that the fat may not "take". Some of the fat that is taken from one part of the body and injected into another part of the body may be absorbed by the body, may become liquified and form a cyst, may calcify or may produce scarring within the tissue. On average approximately 30-50% of the fat that is injected will "take" and be incorporated into the body as a living tissue. Usually by 6 months to 1 year from surgery it is apparent how much of the fat that was injected has survived and at this point whatever is there will most likely be permanent. Other risks include the risks associated with the harvesting of the fat such as a seroma (a collection of fluid), hematoma (a collection of blood) or a contour deformity.
There are things that can be done in order to prevent some of these complications. The most important thing you can do to decrease your risk of having a complication (and this is true of ANY cosmetic or reconstructive procedure) is to make sure that you are going to a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon for the procedure. There are many Physicians out there performing cosmetic procedures, liposuction being a very common one, who are NOT Board Certified Plastic Surgeons. In our opinion you are just asking for a complication if you do not seek out a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon to perform your surgery. To avoid some of the risks associated with liposuction your Doctor will have you wear compression to the donor area following the procedure. To ensure that as much of the fat as possible sticks around you should avoid anything that will compromise the blood supply to your newly transferred fat. This means avoid compression in this area as well as ice. For example, when a buttock augmentation is performed using fat grafting the patient must avoid sitting directly on their buttocks for 2 weeks.
What is Cytori PureGraft?
Dr. Brooks uses the only FDA approved fat grafting system, Cytori Puregraft®. Puregraft® is a lipofiltration system that allows for a quick preparation of fat for fat transfer in a single-use, sterile, closed environment. The Puregraft® system drains any excess tumescent fluid, (a fluid injected into the body prior to liposuction) free lipids, and blood from the lipoaspirate and then allows the lipoaspirate to be washed with saline using a sterile technique. This ensures that the fat harvested for grafting purposes is uniform and consistent and prepared in a timely fashion, helping the graft have a greater chance of being viable, i.e. more fat take.
What is the truth about Fat Grafting for Breast Augmentation?
Although fat grafting is widely accepted as common practice for things just as facial rejuvenation and adding volume to the buttocks, the jury is still out on using fat for primary breast augmentation, as a substitution for implants. Currently, fat grafting is used to enhance the results of breast reconstruction after mastectomy or lumpectomy and to improve the results of implants by helping to reduce rippling and wrinkling or visibility of implants. Although fat grafting may seem appealing to some patients over an implant, there are some things to consider when making the decision if it right for you. One limiting factor is the volume that can be achieved. Women can expect to achieve less than a cup size in difference with fat grafting, while implants are able to achieve much more volume. The amount achieved is also unpredictable as only 30-50% of the fat injected will establish it's own blood supply and live. The cells that do live also can fluctuate with any weight loss or weight gain causing a difference in breast size with any difference in weight, something that obviously would not happen with a silicone or saline implant. One last consideration is whether or not fat grafting could obscure the readings of future mammograms or be mistaken for early breast cancer. There is not concrete evidence to say one way or the other, but it is a potential risk. Women who have had fat grafting to their breasts or implants should always let the technician know they have had such procedures done prior to any breast studies.
How do I learn more about Fat Grafting?
If you are interested in learning more about Fat Grafting or are wondering if it is the right choice for you, call our office at 413-565-4400 or visit Our Website to book a consultation with Dr. Brooks.
Disclosure: This post is not sponsored by Cytori.