The California Breast Lift®
Article by Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
Want to enlarge or improve your breasts with your own fat?
For years, Plastic Surgeons and their patients have desired to transfer unwanted fat from their tummy or thighs to their breasts. We are now are able to do this safely.
If you have been considering a Breast Lift or improving your appearance after breast augmentation or Breast Reconstruction but are not comfortable with introducing artificial material into your body, you may want to look into the benefits of breast augmentation with fat transfer. An alternative to breast implants is fat transfer also known as fat grafting or lipoinjection. This technique allows women the option of enhancing the appearance of their breasts without the potential problems of saline or silicone implants such as hardness, rippling or rupture.
Who is a candidate?
- Any woman who is healthy
- Women with sufficient body fat for the procedure
- Women considering breast augmentation who wish to be one cup size larger or less
- Women who have had breast augmentation or reconstruction but who lack fullness or have contour concerns. Fat transfer can further enhance and reshape your breasts while smoothing out visible or palpable edges of breast implants. This will disguise implant rippling and wrinkling.
- Women with normal mammography
Dr. Nichter has successfully transplanted fat into the face, buttocks and other body areas for decades and are now using this same technology to enhance breast shape and size. Plastic surgeons have been transplanting fat to the breast since 1995 but caution and study were necessary to make sure there were not harmful effects. Furthermore, results in the past were variable, dependent on surgical equipment, technique, surgeon’s skill, and individual patients healing abilities.
Since 1995, recent advances have led to the development of special instruments made just for fat grafting. Dr Nichter uses his decades of experience and advanced knowledge of this technique to transfer body fat from other unwanted areas to the breasts. Though this procedure is still considered investigational to a degree, more and more qualified plastic surgeons are using this technique successfully. The advantage of this technique is its ability to create a natural augmentation without an implant. Fat grafting (also called lipoinjection or fat transfer) to the breasts is indicated for different reasons: as an alternative to implants for mild to moderate breast augmentations, to provide fullness to the upper part of the breast during a breast lift, after pregnancy, age, or weight loss, following breast reconstruction, or to minimize the visibility or rippling of existing breast implants. Typically up to one breast size enlargement is possible in most patients. Fat transfer to the breast is usually done as a single procedure resulting in approximately half a cup volume increase. In women desiring additional breast enhancement a subsequent procedure can be performed. Each surgery consists of two components:
- Harvesting the fat: Fat is removed from your abdomen, hips, “love handles” or other areas using a fine cannula similar to the one used for liposuction but skinnier. This fat is rinsed with sterile saline solution and then packaged into syringes and prepared for transfer. Approximately 20% of fat removed is suitable and available for fat grafting.
- Fat transfer into the breasts: The prepared fat is injected in small amounts at a time and widely distributed within the layers of the breast so that these living fat cells can pick up a healthy new blood supply.
Advantages of Fat Transfer to the breasts:
- Fat cells are natural and you are using your own tissue without any foreign body or implant.
- Harvesting of the fat by liposuction has the added benefit to enhance your shape by removing unwanted fatty deposits
- The breast can be shaped or sculpted in more detail than is possible using implants alone.
- Minimal incisions reduce the possibility and degree of scarring
- No implant is used, therefore there is never a need for replacement, or any potential for capsular contracture (hardening of the implant).
- Fast Recovery Time: Recovery time is about 1 week and usually less uncomfortable from implants that are placed beneath the muscle.
Although, breast augmentation performed with the lipoinjection technique takes longer than traditional breast augmentation (with implants) the benefits are substantial including no need for implant replacement in the future.
In the past, significant questions were raised about the ability of Mammograms or MRI to detect breast cancer after injecting fat into the breast. However, there is no evidence that fat transfer to the breast is less safe than any breast surgery. Large studies have begun over the last several years to study fat grafting to the breast. With or without breast surgery, calcifications and lumps can occur. Breast diagnostic studies including physical examination and mammograms should be used to monitor every patient diligently using standard guidelines.
As a general rule, surgeons with extensive experience in grafting large volumes of fat to the body are most likely to obtain the best results. We believe fat transfer should only be performed by surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery that have experience in fat grafting. Few plastic surgeons have this experience. This ensures that your surgeon has advanced knowledge and technical familiarity, but also the subtle anatomy and aesthetics of breast augmentation.
Our patients remain the biggest source of our referrals. Over time they continue to remain thrilled with their results from these and similar procedures. I continue to share their enthusiasm and appreciate their long lasting rejuvenation which seems to affect them inside and out.