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Breast implants vs fat grafting: how can you decide?

Breast implants vs fat grafting: how can you decide?

Breast augmentation Davidson, Cornelius, Mooresville, Lake Norman, Charlotte

Breast augmentation is one of the most popular cosmetic surgical procedures. Many women would like to have larger breasts, and this can’t be accomplished through nonsurgical methods like exercises or supplements. The only effective way to increase breast size is through plastic surgery.

There are two main methods that can be used for breast augmentation – placing breast implants, or fat transfer to the breast. These are quite different procedures, and they each have their own advantages and disadvantages. If you’re thinking about breast augmentation, how can you decide which route to take? What factors might you take into consideration as you’re making your decision?

Advantages of implants

There are a few potential advantages of breast implants. One is that a greater size increase can be achieved using implants. With fat transfer, only about a one cup size increase is possible. With implants, the size increase can be greater. There may still a limit on how big your specific implants can be based on your specific skin envelope, because the skin and other tissues above the implant can only stretch so far. For a very significant size increase, it’s sometimes necessary to place more modest implants first, and then later these can be switched out for larger ones once the skin has stretched out a little. Still, for most women, one implant surgery will be enough to get the breast size that they desire.

For very thin and athletic women, breast fat transfer may not be an option. In order to perform fat transfer, fat has to be taken from other parts of the body via liposuction. To be a candidate for the procedure, a woman has to have enough fat tissue in other areas of her body, which can be removed and transferred to the breasts. If a woman doesn’t have enough excess fat tissue elsewhere, then fat transfer will not work for her.

Another advantage of implants is that the results are predictable. With fat transfer, not all of the transferred fat will survive. Over the first few months following the procedure, some of this fat will die off and be reabsorbed by the body. There’s no way to know ahead of time exactly how much fat will survive. By contrast, with implants, the surgeon can know exactly how much volume is being added to the breasts, and so the results are easier to predict. The patient will also be able to see the final results much sooner; once the surgical swelling goes down, the final results will be visible. By contrast, with fat transfer, she will need to wait at least a few months to know what her breasts will ultimately end up looking like.

Some women might also feel safer with implants. Breast implants have been used for decades, and have been extensively studied for their safety over the long-term. By contrast, breast fat transfer is a newer, less common, procedure with less of a track record. In general, both of these procedures are considered very safe with a low risk of complications. However, some women might prefer the procedure that has been more widely studied over a longer period of time.

Advantages of fat transfer

Many women choose fat transfer because it’s natural. Although there is no scientific evidence that silicone breast implants cause any type of systemic illness and are not a health concern, some women still prefer not to implant anything foreign into the body. With fat transfer, only the patient’s own tissue is used, so it’s the most natural option.

Breast fat transfer also does not leave significant scars. There will be a small scar where the liposuction cannula is inserted to remove the fat tissue. However, the fat is injected into the breasts using a syringe, and so there will be no scars on the breast after the procedure. By contrast, the placement of implants requires an incision which will leave a small scar. However, the incisions will always be placed in the most discreet possible locations to minimize visible scars. Using fat transfer largely avoids leaving scars.

In addition, using only fat tissue can help to achieve more natural feeling results. Natural breasts are made up primarily of fat tissue. With fat transfer to the breast, the results will look, feel, and bounce exactly like natural breasts. In fact, they will be natural breasts. Although silicone implants can produce a very natural look and feel when they’re placed by an expert plastic surgeon, there is still the possibility that they will be detectable. The edges of the implant may be able to be detected, and there may be ripples that can sometimes be felt or seen. By contrast, with fat transfer, this isn’t a concern.

Women who get implants might need additional surgeries in the future. No medical device lasts forever, and breast implants are no exception. They may rupture and need to be replaced, or the capsule of scar tissue around the implant may tighten, requiring additional surgery. However, with breast fat transfer, future procedures will not be necessary unless a patient gains or loses a significant amount of weight, which can alter the amount of fat in the breasts. 

For women who have unwanted fat tissue in other places (such as the abdomen, buttocks, or thighs), another advantage of fat transfer is that it both gets rid of fat tissue that you don’t want. Liposuction is used to harvest the fat tissue for transfer. For some women, having liposuction to remove pockets of unwanted fat tissue, while also increasing their breast size, makes fat transfer a very attractive option.

Breast augmentation Davidson, Cornelius, Mooresville, Lake Norman, Charlotte

Choosing between implants and fat transfer is a very personal decision. There are advantages and disadvantages to each choice, and each woman will have to weigh the tradeoffs for herself in order to decide what’s right for her. In order to make an informed decision, you should visit a plastic surgeon for a consultation. This will allow you to get personalized advice, based on your body, your medical history, and your goals for the procedure. 

Dr. Miles offers consultation appointments with absolutely no obligation to proceed with any procedure. We’ve structured our appointments differently, so what we offer isn’t a high-pressure sales pitch like you might unfortunately have encountered at other plastic surgery offices. Rather, it’s a relaxed environment in which you will get expert advice that you can trust and rely upon, from a double-boarded plastic surgeon with many years of training and experience. To schedule your appointment, please contact our front desk.

Dr. Erik J. Miles
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