Most people associate breast augmentation with breast implants. In fact, sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. However, augmentation does not always entail inserting silicone or saline implants into the breasts. Another popular, but less talked about option is fat transfer for breast augmentation.
Also called autologous fat transfer, during fat grafting your surgeon harvests fat cells from various areas of the body and redistributes them to your breasts. Your surgeon starts by removing fat via liposuction. The fat is then purified both to remove impurities and increase the risk of a successful cell transfer. Then, your surgeon injects the fat into your breasts using a series of small injections to help sculpt and reshape the breasts.
Many patients prefer fat grafting to implants as it’s less invasive and does not involve putting foreign objects into the body. However, there are limitations to the procedure and, in some cases, implants may be the better option.
Below, we will break down the pros and cons of fat grafting for breast augmentation to help you decide if the procedure is right for you.
Many people have reservations about putting foreign items in their bodies. While research indicates breast implants are very safe, especially if you have regular mammograms and follow-ups, many women feel the anxiety associated with implants would outweigh their potential benefits. In these cases, fat grafting can be a viable alternative.
Some women also find fat grafting looks more natural than implants. The results are generally less dramatic, but this can actually be a plus for women looking to only slightly enhance their breasts.
Fat grafting comes with a significantly shorter recovery period than implants as it is a less invasive procedure. After fat grafting, you will need around seven to 10 days of downtime during which swelling will gradually subside and you will be able to see your final results.
Full recovery from breast implants, by comparison, can take between four to six weeks and during this time you will be unable to do many regular activities such as heavy lifting and strenuous physical exercise.
However, if significant liposuction is performed in order to harvest enough fat for grafting into the breasts, your recovery may be governed by the discomfort associated with liposuction rather than the augmentation.
Even when working with a qualified surgeon, breast implants almost always result in some noticeable scarring. While there are plenty of ways to manage and reduce scarring, this can be a dealbreaker for some women.
Fat transfer, conversely, results in little to no scarring as the procedure is significantly less invasive. Fat is removed and injected through very tiny incisions, so any scars will be small and difficult to see. Women who would prefer minimal scarring may find fat grafting is a better fit.
Some fat deposits are the result of genetics and do not respond to diet and exercise. If you opt to reshape your breasts with fat grafting, you can remove fat from areas like the thighs or stomach and redistribute it to the breast.
Reshaping your entire body and not just your breasts is a plus for many women considering fat grafting.
Results will vary from patient to patient, but fat transfer is generally less predictable than breast implants. On average, only about 70% of fat survives the transfer, so results may diminish significantly within the first years.
There is some evidence that weight loss or gain can impact results as well. Since the volume grafted are living fat cells, change in body weight can impact the size of breasts augmented with autologous grafting so it is always a good idea to be at an easily maintainable weight when considering fat grafting to the breasts.
There is only so much enhancement you can do with fat transfer. You can usually only increase the size of your breast up to one cup size.
With implants, however, you can dramatically change breast size and also lift the breasts to address issues like age or pregnancy-related sagging. For patients hoping to dramatically reshape and resize the breasts, implants are generally the better option.
However, for those who are set on fat grafting, but want a significant change in breast volume, there is a solution: multiple fat grafting sessions. Each procedure can gain you one additional cup size. Each additional session will come with its own recovery period.
Fat necrosis refers to the death of fat cells in the transfer site. This can result in lumps in the breasts, reddish, dimpled skin, and in rare cases pain, tenderness, and discomfort.
Significant fat necrosis is a rare complication, but patients with a greater volume of fat transferred may be at a higher risk. If you are concerned about fat necrosis, talk to your surgeon about the relative risk for you specifically.
Fat grafting is essentially two procedures in one – liposuction followed by the fat transfer itself. Prices do vary from surgeon to surgeon, but the total cost of fat transfer for breast augmentation is often higher than the cost of implants.
Fat transfer for breast augmentation is a viable option for women who want mild enhancement and prefer natural-looking results. Fat transfer is far less invasive than breast implants, resulting in minimal scarring and a shorter recovery period. However, for those seeking dramatic changes, breast implants may be a better choice.
Ready to get started? Leif Rogers is an Ivy League-educated, board-certified plastic surgeon and a standing member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. If you’re considering fat grafting, get in touch with his team to schedule a consultation.