Professor Mark Ashton is a Melbourne-based plastic surgeon who specialises in fat transfer procedures.
As former Head of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (2001-2016), Mark enjoys a reputation as one of Australia’s most respected and internationally renowned plastic and cosmetic surgeons.
What is Fat Grafting?
Fat grafting is a relatively new concept in plastic surgery which allows the transfer of your own fat to fill defects around the body and/or augment soft tissues such as lips, buttocks or defects in your face.
The technique involves aspirating fat through a gentle liposuction technique in the operating theatre. The fat is then centrifuged and processed in a sterile manner and then is divided into small aliquots which are then able to be injected into the target area through a very fine cannula.
The postoperative recovery is relatively straightforward and is primarily aimed at minimising any bruising and swelling the area from which the fat is harvested. This means that you should refrain from heavy exercise, should keep the areas clean and dry and that you should not let the areas get excessively wet, such as having a bath or swimming. A light shower is normally able to be undertaken without problem.
Pain relief usually consists of Panadol after the surgery.
The most important aspect of fat transfer is to understand that somewhere been 30% and 50% of the fat will resorb over the ensuing six weeks after transfer. This means that in almost every case the fat transfer will need to be conducted on at least two, three or even four separate occasions.
Although fat transfer is used in breast reconstruction, fat transfer has also been advocated for the use in breast augmentation and this has been the most controversial aspect of its use. The main reason for this is that fat when transferred into the body may, as part of the resorption process, produce scar tissue which may subsequently become calcified.
This line of calcified scar tissue may occasionally have a very similar in appearance on mammogram to that of early breast cancer. It means therefore, that if you were to have a mammogram and the calcification was detected on your x-ray, it may be difficult for the radiologist to determine if this is fat that has been transferred and undergone calcification or if it is indeed a new breast cancer.
With the newer techniques and new methods of imaging, the delineation between calcified fat and a true breast cancer is now relatively easily determined and I do not believe that this is now a major problem.
However, this still remains controversial and you should specifically discuss this with Professor Ashton, particularly if there is a family history of breast cancer, if you are concerned about breast cancer, or if you have a past history of breast cancer.