Listen up, “the jury’s in!” says the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Liposuctioned fat can be used effectively for breast augmentation. This was the conclusion of a study of 50 patients presented at the annual conference of the ASPS held in Seattle last month.
Why is this study so potentially significant? The reasons are so numerous it’s hard to know where to start.
Breast augmentation is the most popular cosmetic procedure, according to the ASPS, with over 300,000 surgeries performed in 2008. But today’s silicone and saline implants, although they’re some of the most tested and improved of all medical devices and generally considered very safe, still have their potential issues. A good plastic surgeon will tell you breast implants cannot be expected to last a lifetime. The notion of using one’s own tissue for breast enhancement instead of a fallible foreign object is compelling indeed.
In addition, the ASPS study found that the fat had an 85% survival rate within the breast. It has long been thought that re-absorption by the body is a frequent occurrence, and/or that fat removed by suction is treated so roughly that it is not likely to remain healthy. The paper presented in Seattle indicates otherwise—providing the opportunity for plastic surgeons to offer a double-whammy procedure. Just think of the marketing opportunity: reduce your thighs and perk up your breasts at the same time!
The authors of the study found that the average time of the fat transfer or fat grafting procedure is 1.5 hours. This finding is also important in that this surgery has traditionally been thought to be time consuming.
Then there’s the advantage of minimal scarring. Fat grafting requires injections into the breasts rather than incisions. Not even an intimate partner has to know about the procedure.
Finally, but also extremely important, the study discovered that the fat moved to patients’ breasts did not get in the way of mammograms or result in false readings. This has also been a traditional objection to the notion of fat transfer for breast enlargement.
So. Should you rush right out and sign up? Maybe, or maybe not.
There are a few drawbacks to the procedure itself you should know about. First, the ASPS surgeons noted that external tissue expanders need to be worn for several weeks before and after surgery to make room for the new fat and help ensure its survival. The study did report some trouble with subjects complying with this requirement.
They also reported that the average increase in volume for the 50 patients studied was 210cc, or very roughly one cup size. That's not enough enlargement for many women considering breast augmentation.
More important to consider, perhaps, is your stance toward cutting edge procedures and your tolerance for risk. Fat grafting for breast augmentation is not a new concept, but it has not yet produced the levels of predictable results and patient satisfaction that have surgeons flocking to add it to their repertoire.
Given that, if you do decide to explore fat grafting for breast enlargement, know that not many plastic surgeons are experienced in the procedure. Even if your risk tolerance level is higher than the average woman, you probably don’t want to be a guinea pig. Seek out one of the rare plastic surgeons who is well-acquainted with the ins and outs of fat transfer.
Or, if you’re like me, someone who is more comfortable as part of the mainstream, just wait. There’s good potential here, right now for selective use (such as disguising ill-placed implants) and possibly in the future for more general use. This means there’s sure to be more news on the use of fat transfer for breast augmentation soon.