Fat Injections to Improve Breast Reconstruction Results: Is it Safe?

Fat injections have been used in the treatment of contour deformities of various areas of the body as well as for rejuvenation, particularly in the face. Referred to also as lipofilling, fat is suctioned from areas of excess deposits, then processed and injected into where it is needed. This technique has been used with increasing frequency to further refine the results of breast reconstruction in order to obtain fuller, more projecting and natural appearing contours. The question that many plastic surgeons and others have regarding this approach is whether or not the injected fat is associated with an increased risk of recurrent breast cancer.

A study published in the Annals of Oncology in May 2011 provides some answers that may be helpful in resolving this issue. The research involved analysis of data on 321 women who had surgery for breast cancer performed in Milan, Italy and who subsequently underwent lipofilling as a component of their breast reconstruction. They were then case matched to 642 women who also underwent surgery for breast cancer but did not have any fat injections as part of their breast reconstruction. Follow-up after the surgery for breast cancer averaged 56 months; for those who underwent lipofilling, this number was 26 months.

What were the results?

It was found that eight women from the lipofilling group and nineteen women from the control group had local recurrences, a difference that was not statistically significant. For recurrences of noninvasive breast cancer, also known as an “in situ” cancer, there were three recurrences in the fat injection group whereas there were none in the control group, a difference that was statistically significant. The researchers felt that this result may have potentially been affected by the very small numbers involved, the relatively shore follow-up time, and the fact that previous research has shown that the control group should have had an average rate of recurrence of over 2 percent for this period of follow-up time yet this particular group yielded none.

Though this study is by no means the definitive answer on the subject of the safety of fat injections for women undergoing breast reconstruction, it surely does provide comforting evidence to those women considering lipofilling as part of their overall reconstruction.

For more information on breast reconstruction surgery including the usage of fat injections or for any other plastic surgery procedure that I perform, or to schedule a consultation with me, please feel free to call my office at 480-451-3000.

Steven H. Turkeltaub, M.D. P.C.
Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona

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