Fat Grafting to the Breast


Fat grafting is one of the most exciting areas of innovation to hit plastic surgery in the last two decades. It’s recycling at its best. During the fat grafting procedure, you’re taking excess fat from an area where you don’t want it such as the outer thighs, hips or abdomen, and placing it in an area where you do want it, like the breasts, face and buttocks. Not only does fat grafting allow the patient to “pump up the volume” naturally, but fat is also an incredibly rich source of stem cells. And stem cells are literally the fountain of youth.

Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Bruce Van Natta is at the forefront of new breast surgery innovations. For him, fat grafting to the breast is a total game changer. It can be used:

  • in place of implant
  • as a way to increase upper pole fullness with an implant
  • to fix bad results from reconstruction or breast augmentation
  • as a way to address breast deformities such as tubular breasts

Who Is a Candidate for Fat Grafting to the Breast?

Breast augmentation surgery is the most popular cosmetic procedure in the world. However, there are many women who love the idea of a bit more fullness in their chest, but who don’t want a foreign device placed in their body. For them, fat grafting to the breast may be an ideal option. It’s also a nice alternative for younger patients. They can get a slight increase without having to commit to a breast implant.

Fat grafting to the breast is also a great alternative for patients with breast deformities such as tubular breasts or constricted lower poles. These are conditions that have historically been really hard to treat so Dr. Van Natta is excited to offer this option to his patients. Using a patient’s own fat has also proven invaluable in restoring soft tissue volume, and correcting deformities of the breast that often result from mastectomy, radiation or complications from either reconstruction or a cosmetic breast surgery. Incredibly, the injection of autologous fat grafts into irradiated breast tissue has consistently been shown to improve not only the appearance of the irradiated skin, but has also led to improved sensation in the skin flaps of the reconstructed breast. This is all thanks to the stem cells contained within the fat tissue. They have been shown to secrete a variety of growth factors, including ones that increase the development of new blood vessels. Now you can see why Dr. Van Natta is so pumped about fat grafting!

Pros & Cons of Fat Grafting to the Breasts

One of the number one benefits of fat grafting, as discussed, is that your fat is an incredibly rich source of stem cells. These cells can:

  • improve skin tone and texture
  • correct radiation effects
  • improve sensation in treatment areas

But there are a number of other advantages as well to using your own fat to increase breast volume as opposed to a saline or silicone implant. First, there is no concern about capsular contracture or implant failure down the line. Second, the results from fat grafting to the breast are permanent so you will save the expense of replacing your implant in 10, 15, 20 years. Third, the results from a breast augmentation with fat feel completely soft and natural because this is actually your own tissue. Furthermore, Dr. Van Natta is able to increase your breast volume in a much more precise way with fat because he can place it exactly where you desire such as the top of the breast to increase upper pole fullness or in the cleavage area.

Radiologists who have looked at the mammograms of patients who have fat grafting are not having any problem reading them, which is an important safety issue. And perhaps the biggest advantage of all is that patients who pursue a breast augmentation with fat grafting get liposuction of a problem area in addition to enlarging the breast – a win-win. Lipo-augmentation is the ultimate “green” plastic surgery.

On the con side, fat grafting to the breast can typically only take a patient up 1 to 1 1/2 cup sizes so it’s best for women who aren’t looking for a big uptick in volume. Also, not all of the fat in a fat grafting procedure “takes”. This means that a certain percentage of the fat cells will die off. In general, Dr. Van Natta anticipates that 1/2 of the volume of fat that is grafted will remain. To give you a visual, 400cc of grafted fat would ultimately translate to about a 200cc increase. So, using fat to increase your breast size is not as exact as placing a specific volume. Additionally you may choose to add more fat grafting volume down the road. All of this will be discussed in detail during your initial consultation.

Breast Augmentation Using Your Own Fat

If you think that fat grafting to the breast might be the right option for you, schedule a consultation with Dr. Van Natta at his Indianapolis office as it is extremely important to be assessed in person. During your consultation, Dr. Van Natta will listen closely to what bothers you about your breasts. He will perform a thorough physical exam to assess your anatomy as well as the current condition of your breast tissue, breast volume and skin elasticity. Then, together, you will discuss whether or not a breast augmentation with fat can deliver your desired outcome. In general, a breast augmentation with fat alone is best for women who are only looking to go up about 1 to 1 1/2 cup sizes.

Fat Grafting to the Breast Procedure

Fat grafting is really two procedures in one. First, Dr. Van Natta will liposuction your agreed upon problem area to harvest the fat. After the harvested fat is prepared, it will be injected through small stab incisions, often using the existing liposuction openings. Technique is extremely important which is why it is vital to see a surgeon with a lot of experience in fat grafting to the breast. The grafts are placed as little ribbons of fat from multiple directions, from deep to superficial.

Recovery from Fat Grafting to the Breast

Fat grafting to the breast is performed under general anesthesia. Depending on the amount of fat that is harvested, you may need to wear a compression garment for a couple of weeks to help reduce swelling. This will be discussed with you during your initial consultation. You can expect to be bruised and swollen for the first couple of weeks. You will want to avoid upper body exercise for the first couple of weeks, and only then gradually add it back in. Most patients don’t experience a great deal of pain. It’s more discomfort and can typically be addressed with over the counter pain medications. However, if you need something stronger, Dr. Van Natta is happy to safely prescribe a prescription pain med.

As with all breast surgery, it can take anywhere from 3-6 months for your swelling to fully subside and for your final results to be revealed. But you should notice an improvement in your body contour immediately. And in no time, you will be happily wearing those skinny jeans and rocking a new size bra.

To find out more about fat grafting to the breast with Dr. Bruce Van Natta at Meridian Plastic Surgeons in Indianapolis, contact us today or call (317) 575-0330 to schedule a consultation.