Breast Fat Transfer Risks and Side Effects

Women who are unhappy with their breast size or have lost volume due to breastfeeding or the natural aging process have options for restoring or creating volume in their breasts.

For many years both silicone and saline implants have been used to increase women’s breast size and provide them with a more aesthetically pleasing shape.

Rather than implants, some women are opting for a procedure called fat transfer breast augmentation. This is done by taking fat from one area of the patient’s body and injecting it into their breasts.

Although considered minimally invasive and fairly safe overall, fat transfer breast augmentation risks do exist and should be considered before choosing this method to enhance your breasts.

Breast Fat Transfer Benefits

To perform a fat transfer to breast procedure, the surgeon extracts fat from another part of the patient’s body. (abdomen, hips, back, etc.) The fat is processed in a centrifuge to remove any impurities and then it is injected into the breasts to add volume etc. The benefits of this procedure are:

  • Nothing foreign is going into the body so there is no chance of rejection;
  • Does not require surgery;
  • Virtually no scarring.

Breast Fat Transfer Side Effects

This procedure is generally safe and effective for certain situations but fat transfer breast augmentation has risks that you should be aware of.

Fat necrosis

Fat Cells require a blood supply to live so when they are removed from their native location, ( the abdomen or other area to use in the breasts) they are free-floating. They are then injected into the breasts and to survive and successfully live in their new location, they need to attach to an adequate blood supply.

If not given access to enough oxygenated blood, the fat cells will die. The number of fat cells that survive varies among patients and there is no way to tell in advance what the percentage of survival rate will be. This fat survival rate can be approximately anywhere from 30% to 70%. When fat cells die it is referred to as fat necrosis which can cause some issues including:

  • Painful lumps;
  • Oily cystic lumps;
  • Calcifications;
  • Redness and pain;
  • Skin discoloration;
  • Unexpected results in breast shape or appearance.

Fat necrosis is the most common of the breast fat transfer side effects but also can be the most concerning. Fat cells that do not live, and are not naturally flushed away by the body, can turn into calcifications or oil cysts. These can cause pain or lie dormant remaining there forever and can cause confusion during cancer screenings going forward. These cysts and calcifications look very similar to breast cancer and their presence may induce continual cancer scares, biopsies, or the chance that breast cancer is missed.


The incisions used to perform a fat transfer breast augmentation are tiny and the risk of infection, while very low, is still possible. Patients who have weak immune systems or who smoke may have an increased chance to have complications due to an infection.

Fat reabsorption

After a fat transfer, some of the fat that is moved will not survive, it is inevitable. Fat that does “graft” (finds a new blood supply and has successfully implanted into the new location) will act like any other fat cells in the body. Those that die will either be reabsorbed by the body and eliminated or can turn into cysts, calcifications, or lumps.

Fat reabsorption can make it challenging to know what results you will end up with after a breast fat transfer. Although surgeons knowingly inject more fat into the area to allow for this absorption, patients may not get the volume they expected. Patients may also experience asymmetrical breasts as the absorption rates may be different for each breast. To correct these issues many surgeons recommend doing more than one fat transfer session.

What Are The Cons Of Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation?

Fat necrosis is the most common side effect as well as the biggest con of fat transfer breast augmentation. A significant downside of using fat transfer is that there is no way to control how much fat will be retained so results are not consistent and patients may not get the aesthetic they desire. Using fat transfer is also more expensive than traditional implants because it is a two-part procedure consisting of liposuction and fat transfer.

The expertise of the surgeon plays a critical role in the final results when performing a fat transfer breast augmentation.

How Long Does Fat Transfer To Breasts Last?

Fat cells that successfully graft into the new location on the breasts will be permanent and will react like any other fat cell in the body.

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