Has the time for fat grafting to breasts arrived?

Richard Baxter, MD

Article by
Seattle Plastic Surgeon

The idea of using one's own fat for breast enlargement sure seems like a win-win scenario: remove it from where you don't need it and put it into the breasts for a completely natural augmentation. But is has a controversial history, due to concerns that it might leave lumps and specks on mammograms that can be hard to distinguish from cancer. In fact the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) imposed a formal ban on its members for many years. But improved techniques for fat transfer have resulted in a softening of their position, and a new Position Paper came out in August 2009 allowing ASPS members to reconsider using fat for breasts. It's a frequent question on Real Self so here is a summary of where things stand:

  • Clinical trials are still needed to validate the effectiveness and safety of fat transfer for breast enlargement. These will likely take a few years to complete, so it is still considered experimental.
  • Leading experts seem to agree that it works best when combined with a suction-expansion device live the BRAVA system. This is basically a cumbersome suction cup-like apparatus worn on the breasts for several weeks.
  • There are limitations on how much fat can be placed. Many women wanting an increase of more than one cup size will not be candidates for the procedure.

At the present time, implants are the best option for most women. Fat grafting is a very useful technique for many things, such as facial volume restoration or correction of liposuction defects, but its use in the breast will probably be limited until further research is done.