For several decades, silicone or saline breast implants have been the basis of breast augmentation surgery, but recent developments in autologous fat transfer techniques may soon provide a popular alternative to implants. A new study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery indicates that the use of autologous fat grafting alongside a tissue expansion device proved to be a safe and effective breast augmentationalternative.
There are several reasons why autologous fat transfer is an appealing breast augmentation alternative. Unlike implants, fat transfer employs the patient’s own tissues. While implants are not lifetime devices, fatty deposits can last many years, and don’t need to be removed.
However, the procedure is not without its drawbacks, as the body usually absorbs much of the fat. There is a risk that the transplanted tissue will not survive the procedure, usually due to a lack of proper blood supply. As a result, breast implants have remained by far the most widely practiced breast augmentation technique, while fat grafts are largely reserved for breast reconstruction.
This new study involved a six-year examination of 81 women, aged 17–63, who underwent autologous fat injection after several weeks of using a bra-like vacuum-based external tissue expander. This device worked to stretch the breast tissues and prepare them to expand with the injection of fat. While the abstract doesn’t specify where the fat was extracted from, it was likely removed via liposuction from the tummy or buttocks, where women often have deposits of unwanted fat. The fat was injected into the breasts at 10–14 needle puncture sites.
The study found that the tissue expansion device significantly improved the surgical results with:
- significantly larger breast augmentations,
- more fat graft placement,
- higher graft survival rates,
- minimal graft necrosis or complications, and
- 16% incidence of fat necrosis after a year.
The researchers conclude that autologous fat grafting is highly safe and effective, and call for more research into the technique.