Fat Transfer (Fat Grafting)
Fat transfer is used a lot in breast reconstruction surgery and is a valuable additional tool to have.
Put simply, it involves taking some fat from the thigh or tummy by liposuction, processing this fat and then injecting it into the breast. This is performed under general anaesthetic usually as a one night stay, sometimes a day case. The main indications for fat transfer currently are:
- Adding volume to a breast reconstruction
- Correcting "dents" or deformities to the breast
- Improving the quality of the tissues after radiotherapy
- Improving the quality of tissues over an implant breast reconstruction
The main limitation of fat transfer is absorption of the injected fat. This will always happen to some degree and it is reckoned that about 20 - 50% of the injected fat will be absorbed over the first 3 months after the operation. Hence, if a large volume of fat is required this will be transferred over 2 or 3 operations and if a small volume is required, the deficit may be slightly over-corrected initially.
Fat banking involves storing fat that has been harvested with liposuction so that it can be used at a later date. This is a particularly good option in women who require multiple fat grafting procedures. It means that after the first operation, any subsequent fat grafts do not require liposuction and hence the recovery is very quick. Injecting the fat is a daycase procedure, which can sometimes be performed under local anaesthetic.
This is usually quick, with the main adverse effect being some bruising and tenderness in the areas where liposuction was performed. Overall, fat transfer is very well tolerated and you are back to full normal activities within a few days.
Apart from some bruising to areas where liposuction was performed and absorption as mentioned above, other rare but possible complications are: anaesthetic problems, infection, small fat cysts and some lumpiness either in the breast or at the site of liposuction. If fat is injected into breast tissue it can occasionally cause little specs of calcium to appear on mammograms. This does not interfere with screening.