Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation Risks

The Blog
Dr. Jude LaBarbera, MD Plastic Surgeon


Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation Risks

Breast augmentation has been the number one cosmetic surgical procedure since the mid-2000s. This procedure has become immensely popular as plastic surgeons have perfected their craft. Thanks to very high satisfaction rates with breast augmentation, and the fact that it’s relatively easy to recover from – more women are willing to undergo this treatment in order to improve the size, shape, and volume of their breasts. The majority of these women have breast enlargement using artificial implants. However, a small proportion of patients prefer fat transfer breast augmentation. This technique entails using fat extracted from other parts of the patient’s body to achieve the new breast size. In this article, we explore the fat transfer breast augmentation procedure, as well as its side effects and limitations.

Who is a candidate for breast enlargement using fat transfer?

You may be a good candidate for breast enlargement with fat grafting if:

  • You have enough extra fat in other parts of the body to complete the breast augmentation procedure
  • You have experienced problems with implants such as implant rupture, capsular contracture, rippling, or malpositioning
  • You have lost breast volume as a result of pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • You have large hips and small breasts and wish to moderately improve the size of your breasts
  • You have asymmetrical breasts or depressions in your breasts
  • You are in good physical and emotional health
  • You have realistic expectations about the outcome of this procedure

Each patient’s body and needs are different. For this reason, you need a consultation with your plastic surgeon to establish your suitability for this procedure. A skilled, board-certified plastic surgeon will factor in your health history, concerns, and expectations before letting you know what the best breast enlargement option is for you.

Fat transfer breast augmentation procedure

In this type of breast augmentation, plastic surgeons harvest excess fat from other parts of the patient’s body and re-inject it into the breasts in order to achieve a moderate improvement in size and shape. This procedure can also help improve underlying breast asymmetry. Fat is usually harvested from the abdominal area, hips, or thighs. Your plastic surgeon will carefully harvest this unwanted fat using the process of liposuction. Incisions are usually tiny and concealed along the natural folds of the skin. Once the fat is harvested, it is purified in order to remove impurities and identify fat cells that are safe for re-injection. These cells – also referred to as a fat graft – are then expertly injected into the breast in line with the goals of the surgery. In the hands of a seasoned plastic surgeon, fat transfer is a great procedure that can deliver a natural-looking, permanent improvement in breast size. This procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis in an accredited medical facility.

Fat transfer vs breast implants

Fat grafting breast augmentation may be an excellent procedure choice for women who are looking for a mild to moderate increase in breast size. Breast enlargement with fat transfer can increase a woman’s breast size by approximately half to a full bra cup size. This natural approach to breast enlargement also offers a bonus advantage of body contouring in the donor area (since excess fat is removed). Women who receive this type of permanent breast enlargement can be sure their breasts will change naturally should they add or lose weight. More so, fat transfer allows patients to forego some of the side effects of artificial implants such as rippling, capsular contracture, and malpositioning. For women who do not have adequate reserves of fat in the donor areas, fat transfer is not an option. Implant-based breast augmentation may be the only option for women who need a significant increase in breast size.

What are the side effects of fat transfer?

Some of the key side effects of autologous breast augmentation include the following:

  • Infections
  • Cysts
  • Microcalcification
  • The possibility that some of the fat cells will be reabsorbed by the body and leave the breast area
  • Unpredictable death of the fat cells

Keep in mind that breast augmentation with fat grafting is a complex procedure that needs the hands of a highly skilled plastic surgeon in order to ensure a favorable outcome.

Limitations of autologous fat transfer

Compared to breast augmentation with implants, autologous breast augmentation has a few disadvantages and limitations.

→ One cup size limitation

Enlargement using fat transfer is only limited to a single cup size, which makes this option inadequate for women who are looking for more significant improvements in breast size and volume. Breast implants – on the other hand – have little or no limitations when it comes to size.

→ Does not correct ptosis

Autologous breast augmentation is a great way to improve breast size using the patient’s own natural tissue. However, it does not address drooping or sagging breasts. Patients who have these concerns would need an additional breast lift procedure in order to attain the desired outcome.

→ Breast screening concerns

There are concerns that fat injection could interfere with breast screening exams. The large volume of fat needed to be injected into the breast during the procedure can lead to calcifications that are visible on a mammogram. While these calcifications are not associated with breast cancer, they may lead to more frequent biopsies – particularly when there is a history of breast cancer in the patient’s family.

→ Not a good option for lean women

Plastic surgeons need to harvest at least 1,000 ml of pure fat in order to perform autologous breast enlargement. This means this procedure may not be an option for lean women who do not have enough stores of excess fat.