Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation Pros and Cons

Throughout history, the standards of human beauty have been set in stone – literally. Hundreds upon hundreds of statues made in the age of classical antiquity have indeed defined and perfected the ideal proportions of the human form. The pursuit of beauty may have started from then – but technology has only propelled it forward into the colossal aesthetic surgery industry it has become today. This brings us to fat transfer breast augmentation.

One of the most popular body adjustments that concern women are breast enlargement and reduction. Doctors can do this in a few ways – silicone implants and fat transfer breast augmentation. We will focus on the latter in this article and take a closer look at this procedure. After, we will then explore the pros and cons of fat transfer breast augmentation.

What is Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation?

Most women who have decided to enlarge their bust size may seem like a stressful idea to have a foreign object like a silicon pad inserted into their bodies. Some may be apprehensive of the idea and even end up putting off the procedure altogether. 

Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation, also known as autologous breast augmentation, is an alternative procedure that basically uses a woman’s fat from another part of her body to augment her breasts instead of using silicone implants. Let’s learn a little more about then look at the pros and cons of fat transfer breast augmentation.

How does it work? 

First, a plastic surgeon extracts fat through liposuction from another body area that provides enough excess fat for the procedure with the least amount of risk. They then inject the collected fat into the breasts for augmentation, similar to using silicone implants. They then increase the bust size to the specifications of the patient in a natural way. 

How much does fat transfer breast augmentation cost?

According to an online poll on RealSelf.com, the cost of fat transfer breast augmentation averages out at just over $9000. Of course, this price is just an average ballpark figure. Doctors base the final price on how experienced they are, whether they are practicing in a prime location (big cities generally cost a lot more overall), and the amount of fat they need to transfer. The bigger your desired bust size, the more complications may occur, and the price thus goes up. 

As a rule, you should always remember that fat transfer breast augmentation will still cost more than having silicone implants. You will be paying for both the liposuction procedure and the augmentation procedure, not to mention that it takes a much longer time. In silicone implant breast augmentation, you’re essentially only paying for the silicone material and the procedure only.

Does it have proven results?

A recent poll on Realself.com showed that the fat transfer breast augmentation procedure had an 89% positive score across 238 respondents. These responses shared common compliments such as a pleasant, relatively pain-free recovery period, satisfactory results of the fat transfer breast augmentation procedure, and long-lasting positive effects on their bust size. 

However, there is also some skepticism regarding this form of breast augmentation surgery. Several women who have undergone the unsuccessful procedures have reported a continuing loss of asymmetry in their breasts. Their bust size diminished in size just a few months after their surgery. 

There is also the risk of the sutures erupting during recovery. Potential candidates for such complex procedures are always highly recommended and encouraged to check if their doctors are experienced and reputable before signing off on the dotted line of the surgery consent form. 

The fat transfer breast augmentation journey: step-by-step

1. Pre-operation

The surgeon will assess the patient’s body fat percentage and recognize the areas where they can safely harvest fat through liposuction. This is when the patient and surgeon agree on the amount of breast augmentation the surgeon can safely do in the procedure. 

For three to five weeks before the procedure, the patient also must prepare to expand the available tissue space on her breasts to fit the fat transfer. This is called the BRAVA system, in which suctions cups are worn on the breasts for 10 to 12 hours a day. By the date of the scheduled procedure, the breast tissue will have expanded to accommodate the fat transfer. 

Without the BRAVA system, the fat transfer breast augmentation results would be much less effective. Another positive effect of the BRAVA system is that it increases blood flow to the area in question and increases fat survival after the procedure.

2. The fat transfer breast augmentation procedure

The procedure itself takes between 2 to 6 hours. The time it takes to complete this procedure relies upon the volume of fat that has to be harvested and transferred. The particular surgeon’s level of experience also plays a significant role in completing the procedure from start to finish. The procedure is a three-step process, and we will outline the steps below: 

LiposuctionDoctors harvest the required fat through liposuction and usually performed while under GA (general anesthesia). In rare cases, local anesthesia is used but with twilight sedation (where you are still responsive to instructions but remain optimally sedated). A cannula is inserted directly into the fat deposits that need to be harvested and removed for the next step.

Purification of fat: Human body fat does not exist as just fat on its own. It requires separation from the tumescent fluid and blood bound to it to be useful for the transfer. The methods used for this purification process vary from surgeon to surgeon, however, the most common approach is a gravity-filtration system. 

After the fat is processed, the pure body fat is then washed with an antibiotic solution and transferred into smaller vessels and syringes to be prepared for the injection.

Fat transfer: In the final part of the procedure, a small cannula is used to help reduce bruising around the fat injection points. The fat will then be injected into the breasts multiple times by the surgeon in a systematic way. 

The order and placing of the injections will rely on the experience of the surgeon. This will then define how natural and symmetrical the breasts’ shape will be after the procedure is finished.

Recovery: Doctors then place a post-surgery bra on the patient’s breasts to provide support and compression clothing on the body’s liposuctioned parts to help speed up the recovery process.

3. Post-operation

Doctors advise patients to have a follow-up visit to the surgeon’s office for further examination and ensure that the healing process is normal. They don’t require compression garments at this point, and the patients should see a visible change in their body shape. 

Swelling is expected in the affected areas, causing the breasts to feel firm. This is normal, and in about six months, the swelling and discomfort should be gone entirely. By the end of the first year, the breasts will have settled into shape.

Next, we’ll explore the pros and cons of the fat transfer breast augmentation procedure and see how it compares to its alternatives on the market today. 

The Pros and Cons of Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation

The Pros

  • It is a natural alternative to silicone implants. If the recovery process goes well, the breasts will look and feel completely natural, and the results are permanent. 
  • There aren’t as many risks of complications as compared to using a silicone breast implant.
  • Patients have the added benefit of body contouring due to the liposuction process removing excess fat in parts of the body.
  • There is minimal risk of allergic reactions or the body rejecting a foreign object as the procedure uses fat that is harvested from the patient’s own body to create a modest improvement in their bust size.
  • A minimal amount of scarring— the only incisions made are four-millimeter incisions used for harvesting the fat through liposuction and the tiny injection points on the breasts.
  • It is generally considered a low-risk procedure as compared to silicone implant surgery. Doctors consider fat transfer breast augmentation surgery to be a safe treatment option with a shorter recovery time. 

The Cons

  • The success of the procedure is based on the assumed fat cell survival rate after being transferred. It has been commonly reported that about 50-70% of fat cells used will survive the transfer procedure. 
  • Due to the possibility of some fat cells not surviving the procedure, the patient may very well end up with asymmetrical breasts that may require further attention, thus prolonging the entire process.
  • Bust size changes of more than 2 cup sizes are not possible in one transfer session. Further transfer sessions are required for that amount of change in breast size.
  • One of the worst-case scenarios is fat necrosis. This is when the fat cells die after transfer. This results in painful symptoms such as bleeding, numbness of the affected area, fever and sores, and the skin around the affected area turning dark blue.
  • Because the patient is paying for two procedures instead of just one (liposuction and transfer), fat transfer breast augmentation is almost always more expensive than regular breast augmentation using silicone implants.

Is fat transfer breast augmentation good for you? 

The ideal candidates for this procedure already have a substantial amount of body fat in other areas of the body. This ensures that there is enough fat that can be harvested and used for the breast augmentation procedure. 

Thus, women on the lean side of the weighing scale would not make excellent candidates for this procedure. 

The patient would also need to be in good health overall. Those with underlying health concerns might be discouraged from having this procedure done, and heavy smokers and drinkers would have to quit their habits way in advance before getting to the pre-surgery stage. 

There is also a potential risk to breastfeeding after fat transfer breast augmentation. Because the procedure involves needles sticking into the breasts in different areas, the glands in the breasts that produce milk run a risk of getting injured in the process. Therefore, mothers of young children or women expecting children in the immediate future are advised to consider these factors before committing to the procedure.

Final thoughts 

According to the market data, fat transfer breast augmentation is still a relatively less popular procedure than silicone breast implants. A recent study from the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has shown that 87% of breast augmentation surgeries today still use silicone implants

Why is it less popular than silicone implants? It may have something to do with the long pre-surgery preparation process. Ten weeks of BRAVA therapy where you wear suction cups over the breasts for 10 hours would seem like a highly uncomfortable and inconvenient process to maximize the results of the procedure. 

The price difference may also play a large role in the difference in popularity between the two methods. While regular silicone breast implant surgery may only cost about an average of $4000 – fat transfer breast augmentation is over double that amount, averaging out at about $9000 for a single session (more might be required depending on the complexity of the patient’s procedure). 

In all, before a woman commits to a method to enlarge bust size, several factors will need to be considered in-depth. In the case of fat transfer breast augmentation, it does seem as though it provides a natural, more beneficial alternative to using silicone implants. However, as with all aesthetic surgeries, any procedure’s success rests on the experience and skill of the surgeon performing it, no matter the methods used to achieve the desired results. 

Alan Behrens

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