"Hey Doc, can you just take the extra fat from my tummy and put it into my breasts?" This was the age-old question asked, jokingly, by women in the past. Today, however, this can be a reality. Fat grafting, also known as fat transfer or autologous fat transfer, is the process in which fat is taken from one place on the body (usually abdomen, thighs, or hips) and injected into the breasts to enlarge their volume for medical or cosmetic purposes. No implants, no foreign bodies. Fat grafting gives more natural results because it uses only your natural fat.
The procedure is minimally invasive. A gentle liposuction technique is utilized to obtain the fat, and small, less than 2mm incisions are used to inject it into the breasts. The procedure requires little downtime – usually about 1-2 weeks – before patients can return to their normal activities. However, there is a certain amount of fat that is resorbed by the body after the procedure. It is important to choose a surgeon that is up-to-date on the most advanced techniques available to try to keep the percentage of fat that doesn't survive to a minimum.
Fat grafting has been used extensively in breast reconstruction, and is gaining popularity as an alternative for breast augmentation. For aesthetic purposes, fat transfer is perfect for the woman who wants to be 1-2 cup sizes larger with a very natural feel and look to her breasts. It is for someone who does not want an implant placed into her body. For reconstruction, fat grafting is used to smooth out the contours of the reconstructed breasts. Recently, with advances in external expanders (the BRAVA system), it can be used to recreate an entire breast mound, precluding our need for muscle flaps, even in the face of radiation.
EXTERNAL EXPANSION AND THE BRAVA SYSTEM
The BRAVA system is a bra-like external tissue expander that has been shown to enlarge breast volume and increase the blood flow within the breast and the surrounding soft tissue. It is very much like a breast pump that many women used during breast feeding. The use of a BRAVA system may be needed to enhance the breast matrix where the fat cells will be injected. It is not used for all fat transfer patients, but can be beneficial for many. In the case of breast augmentation, it is extremely useful to improve the site where fat will be placed, improving the blood supply to the area. This will lead to increased survival of the fat and more beautiful aesthetic results. The BRAVA system has also become more useful in breast reconstruction patients, especially when radiation was used to treat the cancer.
To find out more about BRAVA, visit their website at www.mybrava.com.