What is Fat Grafting

Fat grafting involves taking fat from one area of your body and transferring it to another. During the procedure, a surgeon will perform liposuction to remove fatty tissue from an area where there is excess fat, such as the inner thighs, stomach or lower back. The fatty tissue is then processed and injected into the area of your body where enhancement or volume is desired. The technique is known as "autologous" fat grafting because the fat comes from the patient's own body.

What types of procedures use fat grafting?

  • Facial rejuvenation
    Your physician may inject your own fatty tissue into areas of your face to add volume, increase fullness or fill in the creases.  Your body is less likely to reject its own fat cells, reducing the chance  of an inflammatory response that could occur with the use of other types of dermal filters. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons considers the use of human fat and most other types of dermal fillers to be temporary. You will likely need to do "touch ups" over time to maintain the results.1

  • Breast procedures
    Increasingly, plastic surgeons are using fat grafting in breast procedures. A recent survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons made it clear that plastic surgeons are actively performing autologous fat grafting. Seventy percent of all respondents reported having ever performed autologous fat grafting of the breast.2

  • Brazilian Butt Lift procedure
    Buttock augmentation surgery is sometimes referred to as a Brazilian butt lift. It can involve the use of fat grafting or implants, or sometimes a combination of both, to increase the size of your buttocks.

How is fat grafting used in reconstructive breast procedures?

After a woman undergoes a lumpectomy or mastectomy to treat breast cancer, she may want to consider reconstructive surgery to repair her lost or damaged breast tissue. As part of the reconstructive procedure, your surgeon may use fat grafting as an adjunct to flap or implant breast augmentation. It may also be used as a primary technique for small-volume augmentation, such as to fill in the "divot" left from lumpectomy.

As part of your reconstructive procedure, your surgeon will perform liposuction to remove fatty tissue from an area where you have excess fat, such as your stomach or thigh. Your surgeon will process the fatty tissue to clean it before injecting it into your chest cavity. Your surgeon will then use your own fat to increase volume and correct contour irregularities in your reconstructed breasts. For many breast cancer patients, the use of fat grafting can help to improve overall aesthetic results in reconstructive breast procedures.3

How is fat grafting used in cosmetic breast augmentation procedures?

Plastic surgeons may use fat grafting to add more natural volume and shape to the breasts when performing breast augmentation with implants. Fat grafting can also be used to help correct wrinkling and rippling, a common complication of breast implant surgery.

In thin women and also in some breast reconstruction patients, the tissue coverage over the implant is sometimes not sufficient. This can lead to rippling or the implant demarcation can be visible, especially in the décolleté area. These challenges may be alleviated with the use of fat grafting. To perform the procedure, your surgeon will perform liposuction to remove your own fatty tissue from your stomach or inner thighs. Your surgeon will process the fatty tissue to clean it before injecting it into your chest cavity. Your surgeon will use your own fatty tissue to achieve better implant coverage or improved symmetry or to correct contour irregularities in your breasts.

What are the risks of fat grafting?4

  • Fat cells removed from one body site and injected into another do not always survive.  Multiple fat grafting sessions may be required to achieve your desired volume enhancement. 
  • You will need to have an adequate supply of excess fat for the procedure.  While results may be immediately visible, swelling may take several months to resolve.
  • Fat injected into the breast may be absorbed by the body, may become liquid and form a cyst, may calcify, or may produce scarring.
  • Fat grafting may also produce changes in the breast that may be deemed suspicious during examination by a physician or on mammography, and may lead to further testing to determine if the findings are related to breast cancer.
  • Some common adverse effects associated with autologous fat transfer are asymmetry, over- and/or under-correction of the treatment site, tissue lumps, bleeding and scarring.
  • Autologous fat grafting should not be performed in the presence of any disease process that adversely affects wound healing, and in patients who are in poor overall health.

1 American Society of Plastic Surgeons web site (www.plasticsurgery.org). "Dermal Fillers"

2 Kling RE, et al. Trends in Autologous Fat Grafting to the Breast: A National Survey of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2013 Jul;132(1):35-46.

3 2012 Post-Mastectomy Fat Graft/Fat Transfer ASPS Guiding Principles

4 http://www.surgery.org/media/news-releases/fat-grafting-for-breast-augmentation