Fat transfer to the breasts – also known as organic breast implants or natural breast implants – are rapidly becoming popular as consumers turn to more non-invasive ways to enhance their appearance.
The medical term for fat transfer is “autologous fat transfer”. Autologous means using a patient’s own tissues for the procedure. Doctors can now take fat from problem areas of the body and move it to the breast creating organic breast implants.
For the past twenty years, doctors have been advancing their techniques and technology in order to provide higher and higher fat cell survival rates. Today, it is possible to reach ninety-five percent fat cell survival using certain fat transfer techniques (breast implants Australia). Fat is the ideal filler to add volume, firmness, and youthfulness where the patient desires.
Why Organic Breast Implants over Silicone or Saline?
Silicone and saline implants are perfectly safe, but they require introducing a foreign object into the body. Patients also complain about the ‘strange’ or ‘rubbery’ feeling of the implants. They also have to deal with the risks of rejection or rupture and the complications they bring. Surgery is the only option for patients who want traditional implants.
The technique which is used in organic breast implants is probably most popular in the USA for breast reconstruction combined with a breast implant as it enhances the natural soft tissue coverage of the breast implant which may not be good in a scarred post-mastectomy field. There is usually combined with an acellular dermal matrix – a sheet made from cadaver skin or pig skin. They refer to them as ‘bioengineered breasts’.
The greatest advantage of fat transfer is combining two popular plastic surgery procedures into one. Patients get to lose inches from problem areas while adding them to other areas of the body. It can also be pretty cost effective. Fat transfer is less then half of the cost of traditional breast augmentation, and the patient receives the additional benefits of liposuction without paying for a separate procedure.
Though great advances have been made in fat transfer, it’s generally agreed that additional research is needed to determine the best way to keep fat cells healthy during transfer. Hyperbaric oxygen, stem cells, and tissue expansion are all currently being studied in an effort to achieved the best looking and longest lasting results.
On balance these are techniques that are in the active development phase of what is possible with plastic surgery. Surgeons and patients alike are all watching with great interest as organic implants hold real promise. However this is new surgical ground, so an informed decision and confidence in your surgeon is critical if you are electing to have this procedure.
Because no technique has been agreed on, patients should ask their doctor questions about their approach and the long-term effectiveness of their fat transfers. They may also have patient testimonials and before and after pictures available.
The first step in the harvesting of fat from the body is liposuction. Doctors use the latest technology to gently and safely take fat from areas like the hips or buttocks without creating dimples or permanently loose skin. The doctor can sculpt the area to appear slimmer and smoother. After this step is completed, the fat transfer can begin.
During fat transfers, a cannula is used to deposit small amounts of fatty tissue into multiple areas of the breast (micrografts). The fat is delivered below and into the pectoral muscle, as well as in the breast tissue itself. Cysts or lumps are uncommon with newer techniques of micrografting; tiny amounts of fat are delivered in multiple planes of the breast so there is no clumping of large amounts of fat in any one area. The idea is these micrografts are spread evenly throughout the breast, so each graft is surrounded by adequate blood supply to survive.
New techniques ensure that the fatty tissue develops a blood supply to ensure long-term survival. The increased survival rate of harvested fatty tissue means that the body will reabsorb less fat. If the majority of the cells injected are dead, the body will remove them and the ‘implant’ will not last.
After the procedure, you will be prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection. The healing time is only a week or two. Because there are no incisions made, there are no scars.
Q. I’ve heard that fat transfers can cause cancer. Is this true?
A. There is no evidence to support the theory that fat transfers cause cancer. However, the long-term effects of fat transfer have not been studied. While it is very unlikely that the transfer would cause cancer in the long run, the possibility cannot be ruled out until the long-term effects can be properly evaluated. Because this technology is relatively new, this will take a few decades.
Q. Will my breasts have dimples after a fat transfer?
A. Your breasts should not have dimpling after the procedure. Dimpling is caused when the body reabsorbs dead fat cells. If your doctor has 90%+ rate of living cells, dimpling should be minimal to none.
Q. Can any doctor perform a fat transfer?
A. You should check with an appropriately registered and qualified plastic surgeon to find out. However, when choosing your surgeon, you should look for experience in plastic and cosmetic surgery. They may also have patient references or testimonials as well as before and after pictures of previous patients.
Q. Is fat transfer painful?
A. Fat transfer is mostly performed under general anaesthetic. You will be asked to rest for a week to reduce inflammation and swelling. If needed you will be given prescription pain relievers, but some patients don’t require anything more than over the counter medication to control soreness in the harvest and breast areas. It is much less painful then a traditional breast augmentation.
Dr Gavin Sandercoe on Fat Grafting
Dr. Allan Kalus on Fat Transfer to the Breast