Breast augmentation is a surgical procedure that can be performed by a variety of methods. Some patients choose to have an implant placed in their breast in order to add more volume to the breast area. Others choose a less invasive method where cells are transferred to another part of the body by utilizing breast fat grafting.
Breast fat grafting is performed using a liposuction technique. The fat cells are harvested along with stem cells, regenerative cells, progenitor cells, and growth factors. In as soon as 10 to 14 days, those cells will come in contact with cells that are already there and develop a blood supply. It may take as long as 12 weeks for them to become quite durable but they do become part of that tissue.
This is not unlike a skin graft. It is primarily referred to as fat cell transfer because fat cells make up a good majority of the cells. It also brings along the other cells mentioned above. It is basically like performing liposuction by using a very low vacuum and some IV fluid. The procedure attempts to float those cells along the stream off the vacuum so that they are viable. They are being disrupted from their original place but not disrupted so much that they are harmed irreparably.
The cells are then placed in the breast by carefully floating them in and putting them in contact with cells that are already there. The cells can be placed within the tissues as long as they are taken care of and they remain viable. All the elements that go into that mix contribute to them becoming a part of that surrounding area.
Fat grafting has become a very welcome alternative to implants. In many cases it is used for primary breast augmentation, and also used by patients who may have had primary breast augmentation via an implant. Many patients choose primary fat cell transfer for augmentation. The patient might have had a prior implant augmentation with an implant and no longer wants the implant. In that case, there will be an augmentation by building the breast tissue with the fat cell transfer.
There are certain things that can be made up with an implant and certain things that cannot be made up with an implant. A surgeon might be facing a situation where one breast is larger than the other breast. The difference is made up with an implant as well as some of the patient’s own tissues. Think about fat transfers as a very powerful sculpting tool. It can be individualized to each and every patient.
When looking at a breast fat grafting procedure in most patients, there are a number of regions that are available for fat harvesting. The doctor skims over a large surface area such as the waistline, love handles, abdomen region, inner and outer thighs, and the anterior portion of the body. By skimming over a large surface area, there is the removal of just a few millimeters in thickness, but that surface area is made up of the area where a lot of cells are obtained. A little bit can be taken from a lot of places to end up with what a patient needs.
There are two main limitations when it comes to breast fat grafting. The first limitation is the amount of fat that can be obtained from a patient based on their size and body weight. There are some patients who are quite thin but they do understand there are some limitations. They understand this is not an implant, or an implant look, and they might not get as much volume from the procedure. As long as their expectations are reasonable given the amount of donor tissue they have available, they are happy. Breast fat grafting is more of a solution for patients that are near the ideal body weight or even a little bit below the ideal body weight.
The second limitation is the fact that there is a limit to the amount of natural tissue the breast will accept. A doctor cannot just keep putting more and more in there because it is not really weaving between the existing cells. It is creating a space between cells that are not there. If the area is overfilled, the procedure will not work because the cells being placed there have to be in contact with cells that are already there. If there is a large area that is kind of a balloon, the cells are not necessarily going to be able to make contact and survive.
The main advantage of breast fast grafting is that it has a very natural appearance that can be individualized to the patient as opposed to some contouring and sculpting that cannot be done with an implant. Also, there is nothing being disrupted in regards to the cellular architecture of the breast, so fat grafting does not affect breastfeeding.
The total cost of a breast fat grafting procedure depends on whether there have been prior surgical procedures such as the removal of implants. It really depends on the circumstances. Overall, the price range in the United States is around $11,000-$14,000.
One of the main things to remember while recovering from breast fat grafting surgery is that the tissues will be fragile for a little while. For the first several months at least, the patient needs to not play contact sports, do not sleep on their chest, and avoid alcohol and smoking.
There are many patients who are able to return to their everyday routine within a few days. They do need to be reasonable with their expectations. It is not a prolonged recovery or a lot of pain and discomfort. Patients need to make smart choices in their activities so the little cells have an opportunity to settle into place.
While waiting for the final results of a breast fat grafting procedure, patients need to keep in mind that a very small 2mm cannula is passing hundreds of thousands of times between their existing cells. That passing process is a little bit of a trauma so there will be swelling and bruising for about three to four weeks.
At about the 12 week mark, patients will reach the volume they are going to have and what is going to remain for them moving forward. It is a reliable process. Not many patients need to have a secondary procedure.
Breast fat grafting is a surgical procedure that serves as a powerful tool for breast augmentations. An experienced doctor can help set realistic expectations for the procedure as well as determine if a patient has enough natural fat that can be used for a breast fat grafting surgery. Please consult with a skilled physician before scheduling, and moving forward with, a breast fat grafting procedure.
Written by Cosmetic Town Editorial Team- MA
Based on an exclusive interview with Dr. Edward Bednar in Charllotte, NC