Is Fat Grafting Safe for Breasts?

Dr. Usha Rajagopal, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon at the San Francisco Plastic Surgery and Laser Center, is a leading specialist in breast augmentation surgery. Dr. Rajagopal performs fat grafting (also known as fat transfer) for various parts of the body, including transferring fat to the breasts. Many patients ask Dr. Rajagopal about performing a fat transfer to the breasts to create larger and fuller breasts.

Recently, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has announced that there is no indication that fat grafting for breast augmentation is an unsafe procedure. For years, the safety of using fat grafting as a way of increasing breast size was shrouded in medical controversy. The main debate surrounding the procedure centered on breast cancer detection. Medical experts worried that the grafted fat could hide breast cancer during cancer screenings, further hindering early and essential cancer detection. It is very important to note that no scientific evidence had ever been found to prove that theory in the past and it was only speculated. Further scientific tests and trials are still needed in the not so far off future, but after reviewing a multitude of evidence-based results, no evidence has been found to show that fat grafting for breast enhancement is unsafe.

Fat grafting can be a great breast enhancement option for some women. Other women might have better results with saline and silicone breast implants. The advantages and disadvantages of fat grafting are listed below.

Advantages:

  • Use of own bodily tissue.
  • The patient does not have implants or other unnatural devices inserted into the chest.
  • Unwanted fat from other areas of the body, such as the hips, flanks/lower back (“love handles”), thighs, and/or buttocks, is removed for transplantation to the breast area. This can even out certain problem areas on the patient’s body.
  • Might be an ideal option for a patient with body fat concentrated in other regions of the body besides the chest, and/or has a “pear” shaped body (a bit larger in the lower body than in the upper body).
  • Best for women looking to increase their breast size by half a cup to one cup size.
  • Some complications of breast implants, like rippling and implant rupture, are avoided by using fat grafting instead of implants.

Disadvantages:

  • Is not effective for women who want to increase breast size by more than one cup size.
  • Multiple treatments are often necessary for the full effect.
  • The actual procedure takes more time than breast surgery with breast implants.
  • Since the procedure takes more time and can require multiple treatments, it is more expensive than using breast implants. Conventional breast augmentation with implants only requires one surgery.
  • Women who are petite/thin might not have enough body fat for the fat transfer to the breasts. A decent amount (approximately one liter to one and a half liters) of body fat needs to be removed from another area of the body. Often, women who have small breasts that are looking into breast enhancement procedures are thin and might not have enough fat on other areas of their body for the fat transfer.