Is Fat Grafting Right for You?

The Right Procedure

Fat grafting is an emerging procedure in Plastic Surgery, and its applications are growing both in Canada and around the world. Dr.Hall-Findlay has been using fat grafting as part of her practice for many years.

The procedure begins with liposuction of the “donor” areas using a thin cannula with multiple small holes along its length. The fat is gently prepared in a centrifuge, in order to separate any ruptured cells or fluid. The fat is then prepared for re-injection, using very thin cannulas that are used to carefully deposit the fat into your tissue. The most important technical aspect of fat grafting is this careful reinjection, where thin ribbons or “dots” of fat are placed exactly where needed, allowing us to “plump” the tissue without creating lumps.

Fat grafting has proven to be very useful in filling the upper slope of the breast and cleavage area in conjunction with breast lift and reconstruction. It’s now possible to combine fat grafting and breast implants in order to provide additional padding over an implant if you have minimal tissue to work with. Finally, we now can offer breast augmentation with fat alone in certain women who desire only a modest increase in breast volume.


The Right Patient

It goes without saying that in order to be a good candidate for fat grafting, you must have some fat to borrow! A nice benefit of fat grafting is the contour improvement in the areas where liposuction is performed. However, we are limited in just how much sculpting can be done in the donor areas if we are to ensure a natural result.

For women who are considering breast augmentation with fat alone, it is very important to have realistic expectations regarding how much volume can be added. The best candidates are women with good breast shape and skin quality who are looking to increase their breast size by one-half to one cup size. Women who want a larger increase or who have sagging breast tissue will probably need to consider implants or other procedures. In addition, some women find that they need more than one stage of fat grafting to achieve their desired results.

In our breast lift patients who desire more fullness in the upper part of the breast, but really prefer to avoid an implant, fat graft can be a good alternative.


The Right Reasons

Fat grafting can be an option for women who would prefer to avoid breast implants, since the tissue is your own and doesn’t require maintenance. However, there are limits to what can be achieved with fat grafting, and therefore it’s important that we have great communication so that we can understand what is important to you and conversely, we can help you understand what we can and can’t do with fat grafting.


The Right Time

Recovery from fat grafting alone is quite straightforward and often a bit quicker than some of our other breast procedures. The incisions are very small, but you will be sore from the liposuction and we may ask that you wear a supportive elastic garment to help manage swelling. Most women can return to a desk job after 1-1/2 weeks and to exercise after 3-4 weeks. If you are having fat grafting along with another procedure, remember that there may be recovery guidelines for that other procedure. The grafted area will be swollen, lumpy and bruised for a few days to a few weeks.

Let us answer your questions

For years, our patients have asked us “Can’t you take some extra fat from somewhere I don’t want it and put it somewhere that I do want it?” Fat grafting to the breast has come a long way in the past few years, and is a hot topic in Plastic Surgery research. Fat grafting can now be a helpful technique as part of breast reconstruction, in addition to cosmetic implants or breast lifts, and in certain cases, instead of breast implants for breast enhancement. After a detailed discussion of your goals and a careful examination, we can help you decide if fat grafting makes sense as part of your treatment plan.

Fat Grafting FAQ

How much fat actually “takes”?

Fat grafting can be unpredictable and therefore the amount of breast size increase can be difficult to estimate. Some studies suggest up to 60% graft “take” can be achieved with careful technique, but this is difficult to measure and predict. Some women may choose to have second or even third treatments in order to achieve their desired results.

What are the other risks of fat grafting?

In small pockets where grafted fat fails to “take”, it’s possible for cysts or lumps of scar tissue to develop, creating a lumpy feel in the treatment area. These will often resolve with time, or occasionally can be aspirated with a needle if they don’t disappear on their own.

Does fat grafting cause breast cancer?

Fat grafting is now being done worldwide, in both breast cancer patients and in healthy breasts. The aspirated fat contains your own hormones, growth factors, and stem cells along with fat cells. There are no studies that show that fat grafting causes breast cancer in humans, and a recent study is very reassuring. However, the scientific community would like to have better data, so the American Society of Plastic Surgeons is collecting data on thousands of fat graft cases in a specialized registry. This should provide us with good data as time goes on.

Can fat grafting interfere with mammograms?

We recommend that all fat grafting patients age 40 and over have a baseline mammogram before surgery. Fat grafting can potentially cause lumps, cysts, or calcifications, though grafted fat does not usually look the same as a suspicious lesion on breast imaging.

How would I know if I am a candidate for fat grafting?

We would be happy to see you in consultation and discuss the options once we’ve had a change to examine you and hear about your goals. We invite you to fill out our online consultation request form.