Fat Injections Can Enhance Breasts

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Oct. 26 — Breast lifts can raise, shape, and firm sagging breasts. If awoman wants to add volume, she may need to get breast implants too, but fatinjections can also do the trick, according to research presented at the annualmeeting of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) in Seattle.

The ASPS and its sister organization, the American Society of AestheticPlastic Surgery, state that fat injections to the breast can be used to enhancebreast appearance after reconstruction or to soften the appearance of implants,but the groups don’t yet recommend fat injections for cosmeticaugmentation.

In the new study, all 46 women who received fat injections in their breastafter a breast lift showed improvements in the size and shape of their breastsafter one year. The breasts were soft and had a natural look and feel, saysresearcher Kamran Khoobehi, MD, a plastic surgeon in Metairie, La.

Injecting fat from the buttocks, thighs, or other body areas where it ismore plentiful into the breasts has been mired in controversy. There wereconcerns that the fat may calcify and obscure readings on breast X-rays formammograms or possibly be mistaken for early breast cancer.

Fat Injections and Mammograms

“There is not an issue at all with imaging of the breast,” Khoobehisays. “It is easier to see breast tissue in breasts that were augmentedwith fat than implants.” In the study, there were no abnormalities seen onmammograms compared to preoperative mammograms. There is also no evidenceshowing that injecting fat replete with stem cells into the breast will inducethe growth of cancer cells, he says.

That’s not to say that fat injections to the breast is for every woman. “Theideal is someone who is older than 30, has had multiple pregnancies and …just wants a more natural-looking and feeling breast,” he says.

Another study presented here showed that fat taken from the thighs via liposuction may be an alternative to breast implants.The study of 50 women showed that there was an average increase of 210milliliters of breast volume after 6 to 12 months.

“That’s not a lot of volume,” says WalterL. Erhardt, Jr., MD, a plastic surgeon in private practice in Albany, Ga., anda past president of ASPS. “It is about seven ounces and the average glass ofwater is just eight ounces,” he says, “We are talking about 14 tablespoons ofliquid.”

“The fat injection procedure is more expensive and takes much longer than abreast lift with implants or breastaugmentation with implants alone,” Erhardt says.

Questions, Concerns Linger

Other questions and concerns remain, he tells WebMD. It is also unknown howmuch fat is needed to adequately enlarge a breast because not all fat survivesthe transfer, and the success of the surgery is largely dependent on providers’skill and technique, he says.

“The fat has to develop a blood supply and if it doesn’t develop a bloodsupply, it dies and goes away, and in the past that has been problem,” he says.“If the fat does develop a blood supply, it becomes a living tissue and cangrow if a patient gains weight or shrink if she loses weight,” he says. Thiswas also an issue in the liposuction study.

Put another way: “If the fat came from your abdomen, and you have tendency to gain tummy fat yourbreasts will grow.”

That said, “Fat injections to the breast do eliminate some of the problemsof an implant, like wrinkling and dimpling, but there are a new set ofproblems,” he says. The bottom line? Injecting fat into the breasts “is a longrun for a short slide, but there will likely be a niche for this surgery.”

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