Breast augmentation or enhancement and liposuction are two of the most popular cosmetic procedures performed in the United States. So it is not surprising to learn that plastic surgeons have tried since the 1980s to find a way to augment breasts using a patient’s own fat. Smaller thighs or tummy and larger breasts sound like a win-win situation; however, it is extremely important that the facts about these procedures are understood before pursuing this procedure that is still in the developmental stages.

Fat grafting of the breasts involves suctioning a patient’s own body fat and then, after processing it, re-injecting it into the breasts. The procedure is generally performed as an out-patient under intravenous sedation or general anesthesia. The recovery is brief, with mild swelling and soreness for a few days. The ultimate result is generally visible by three months. It still sounds good to this point, but there are a few issues you should be aware of before jumping on the fat grafting bandwagon.

In 2007, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) appointed a task force to evaluate the safety and efficacy of this procedure. They reviewed the world’s literature on this topic and met to discuss recommendations and propose further research. Their latest update states that further research of high quality is needed before this procedure can be recommended. It has been pointed out that there is still no gold standard for how the fat should be harvested and processed prior to re-injection. It has also been noted that there are changes on mammography and MRI that our radiologists still are learning to interpret. There have been rare complications including infection and death.

There was only one study in the United States regarding this procedure. It involved 50 women who underwent fat grafting for their breasts. Ten of them required two procedures to obtain the desired result. They all wore a suction device on their breasts for ten hours a day for several weeks before the procedure to improve the blood supply to the area. Theoretically, this improves the survival of the transferred fat. In spite of this fairly arduous regimen, the increase in bra size was slightly less than one cup. Many women who choose to undergo breast augmentation prefer a larger increase in size. To undergo this procedure, a patient must have adequate fat stores. However, it seems that women with smaller breasts are frequently thin, making them less suitable candidates for the procedure.

Unfortunately, most of the surgeons currently performing this procedure in the United States are not only not part of ongoing research efforts; they are not board certified plastic surgeons. Instead, they were trained in obstetrics, dermatology, and other unrelated fields. Before pursuing any new or experimental cosmetic surgery procedure, consult with a plastic surgeon that is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery like Patti Flint, MD. You may read additional informative articles on this and other procedures at pattiflintmd.com.

In summary, this procedure does show some promise, as it links liposuction with breast enhancement, two of the most popular cosmetic surgery procedures. However, at this time, neither the ASPS nor the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) recommend pursuing this unless it is done as part of a research study, because there are no standardized techniques, and in general, the radiologists are not yet adequately trained to evaluate mammograms following these procedures.

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