Breast Augmentation Pros and Cons: Implants vs. Fat Transfer

Dr. Alexandre Figueiredo

Dr. Alexandre Figueiredo - Medical Content Writer

Posted Jan 22, 2018

Breast augmentation, commonly referred to as breast enlargement or augmentation mammoplasty, is a procedure designed to reshape the appearance of a woman’s breasts. It involves augmenting, or increasing, the size of the breasts by using either breast implants or a process known as fat transfer. The treatment has become increasingly popular in recent years. According to the American Society Of Plastic Surgeons, breast augmentation was the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the US in 2016, with 290,467 patients having undergone the treatment. In this article, we’ve outlined the two methods of breast augmentation surgery, how they’re performed, and what the surgery entails. We’ve then looked at the pros and cons of each treatment to help you to decide which one might be right for you.

Breast Augmentation With Fat Transfer

The first method, breast augmentation with fat transfer, involves taking unwanted fat from other parts of the body — typically the tummy, flanks, or thighs — and injecting it into the breasts.

How Does It Work?

Once the surgeon has selected the donor site, they will use a liposuction technique to extract the fat, which is then processed into pure fat. The surgeon then injects hundreds of minute individual fat droplets into the breast using what’s known as a cannula, to achieve the desired look. This breast augmentation procedure can be a viable option for women who are looking for a modest increase in breast size and don’t require a significant breast lift. This treatment is also only suitable for those who have an adequate amount of “good fat” (fat that is resistant to diet and exercise) that can be extracted. In the initial consultations with your doctor, they will be able to assess your eligibility for this procedure.

Breast Augmentation With Implants

Breast implant surgery involves the use of prosthetic implants that are made from silicone and filled with a special silicone gel. There are different types of implants available, therefore you should discuss this with your doctor before undergoing the treatment. They will be able to match the right type with your individual needs to accomplish your desired results.

How Does It Work?

Breast augmentation with implants is carried out by creating incisions and inserting the implants into the breasts. The incision can take three different forms, either a periareolar incision (along the bottom edge of the areola), an inframammary incision (underneath the breast along the bottom fold), or a transaxillary incision (in the bottom portion of the underarm). Once the incision is made, the surgeon can then insert the implant. This can be done with a submuscular placement, which involves positioning the implant in a pocket underneath the pectoral muscle, or with a submammary, or subglandular placement. The method that your surgeon uses will depend on your body type, your preferred implant type, and your expected results from the surgery. Recovery time varies from six to eight weeks, but improvements can be seen in as little as one week. Your doctor will likely recommend no heavy lifting or strenuous activity for up to six weeks, but you should be able to resume normal, light activity after a few days of complete rest.

Breast Implants vs. Fat Transfer: Pros and Cons

If you’re looking for a breast augmentation procedure and are undecided between implants or fat transfer, it’s important to discuss both options in detail with your doctor. To give you an idea of the upsides and downsides, we have compiled a list of pros and cons for breast implants and fat transfer.

Pros and Cons of Breast Implants

PROS

  • Results are more predictable since inanimate, equal objects are placed in the patient’s breasts.

  • Long-term solution for achieving desired results.

  • Symmetrical results thanks to equal objects being implanted.

  • More options for various sizes available.

  • More fullness in the upper portion of the breast.

  • Costs tend to be lower.

CONS

  • Potential complications such as capsular contracture, rippling, implant infection, and implant puncture or failure can arise.

  • Stiffer feeling with look and feel of natural breasts taken away.

  • Initial visible scarring, however this usually fades over time.

  • Implants must be replaced at least once every ten years.

  • In extreme cases, the body may reject the implants altogether.

  • Complicated mammograms: The presence of implants can make it more difficult to get a clear mammogram image.

Pros and Cons of Fat Transfer

PROS

  • No artificial materials involved.

  • More natural feel.

  • Some of the potential complications of breast implants (capsular contracture, rippling, implant infection, and implant puncture or failure) are eliminated.

  • No incisional scars on the breast.

  • Low maintenance with no risk of implant breakage or need of replacing an implant.

  • More flexibility as augmentation via fat transfer can be tailored to an individual’s needs and desires.

CONS

  • Results can be more unpredictable as weight gains can cause breasts to become larger and weight losses can cause them to reduce in size.

  • Possible asymmetry due to differences in the number of blood cells between the right and left breasts that can result in different survival rates of the transferred fat cells.

  • Shape of the breasts will still continue to change and additional procedures may be needed.

  • A single procedure may not be able to create significant augmentation.

Breast Implants vs. Fat Transfer: Can the Two Procedures Be Combined?

After looking at the pros and cons of both of these treatments, you may now be wondering, “Can the two procedures be combined?” The short answer is yes. The fat transfer technique can be used in addition to breast implants to contour the shape of the breast and achieve a more natural look. It can also be useful for patients with implants who desire a narrower cleavage or have issues with rippling. When an implant is removed, fat transfer can also be used to restore breast volume. Moreover, fat transfer is a good option to improve asymmetries after a breast augmentation surgery with implants or for further enhancement of the breasts at a later stage.

Alternative Options: Breast Lift

A breast lift, or mastopexy, involves moving the nipple and areola, lifting the breast, and eliminating excess skin to reshape and add volume to the breasts. This is commonly carried out to correct skin elasticity and rejuvenate the appearance of breasts after pregnancy, breastfeeding, weight fluctuations, or aging. However, a mastopexy will not significantly change the size of the breasts.

Can a Breast Lift Be Combined With Implants?

This is another option for women looking to undergo some kind of breast surgery. Combining a breast lift with implants can help to achieve fuller, rounder, and more youthful-looking breasts. Having a breast lift in addition to implants can be ideal for a woman looking to change the size, shape, and position of their breasts. This is commonly done by relocating the nipples into a more centralized position (to prevent them from pointing downward), or by reducing the dimensions of the areola. Ready to get started with your breast augmentation journey? Contact us now and one of our Patient Managers will be in touch with the first steps.


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