Are Fat Injections Safe for Breasts?

Plastic surgeons agree that fat injections are okay for touch-ups after breast reconstruction. But to inject a woman’s own fat for breast augmentation, surgeons claim that it still requires more research.

In 2007, The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, gave a joint statement of caution about fat injections for the breasts, saying that it can be effective in enhancing the appearance of the breast after reconstruction. The statement also said that fat injections can be used to soften the appearance of implants in place.

The joint statement however, warned against fat injections for augmentation, noting a lack of data to support it, and also the fear of impeding the detection of breast cancer.

Studies on fat injections for breast augmentation may soon be underway. There are two clinical trials seeking women to help them study fat injections for breast enlargement.

Some experts are actually starting to like the idea of fat-enhanced breasts. At a recent annual meeting of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the task force assigned by the ASPS to study fat injections suggests that fat injections "may be considered" for both reconstruction and augmentation.

Fat injections: what’s currently known?

Fat injections are used to smoothen the contour of the breast after reconstruction. This usually involves small, limited areas. Injections after reconstruction is more accepted by physicians, and that many have been practicing this procedure for years.

According to Sydney Coleman, a New York City plastic surgeon, in a WebMd.com article:

"Injections used to enhance the appearance of the breast after lumpectomy and radiation can help the tissue damaged in process. The fat injections can boost the growth of blood supply in the breast area that received the radiation and help reverse the effects of radiation damage."

American Society of Plastic Surgeons task force findings

The findings of the task force assigned by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons to study fat injections are as follows:

  • Fat injections may be used in the breast for reconstruction and augmentation. They may also be used in other areas, but the techniques are not standardized and may vary from doctor to doctor.
  • No specific recommendations about fat injections for the breast can be given due to the lack of strong data to back it up.
  • Reported complications such as death of tissues suggest that there are linked risks to the technique.
  • There are no reports found regarding the increased risk malignancy associated with fat injections.
  • It has been found that fat injections may interfere with breast physical exams, but they gathered data suggests they do not impede mammogram screenings.
  • Clinical studies are needed to check the safety and effectiveness if fat injections as well as other factors including how long they lasts.

Perspectives

Aside from proving that fat injections are safe and effective, there are other issues surrounding the procedure that experts think should be considered.

Time – breast augmentation procedures that use implants take about an 1 – 1 ½. Breast augmentations using fat can take 5-6 hours.

Expense – the average surgeon’s fee for implants is around $4,000, and $3,000 for liposuction. Breast augmentation using fat injection can cost about $20,000.

Results with implants, the usual enlargement is about 2 cup sizes. Reports say that 99% of the time, patients end up with enlarged breasts. On the down side, the implants usually don’t feel entirely natural and may have to be replaced in their lifetime.

Fat injections on the other hand, rarely enlarge more than one cup size, often less. That results are neither predictable nor guaranteed, but if successful, a patient will have breasts that is her own tissue.