Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation

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Duke Health plastic surgeons perform breast fat transfer or “fat grafting” breast augmentation, a technically advanced procedure that uses your body fat. This alternative to breast implants may be recommended if you want a small increase in breast size and a more natural-looking result. It is possible to combine fat transfer with a breast implant. It is also possible for your surgeon to remove existing breast implants and smooth the contours of your breasts with fat grafting.

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What Is Natural Breast Augmentation?

This alternative to breast implants is also called “natural breast augmentation” because it uses your body fat, which is transferred from another part of your body to increase your breast size and fill areas of your breast that have lost fullness. You may be a candidate if you are healthy, don’t smoke, and have enough fat to create natural-looking breasts. 

Find a Skilled Surgeon
Natural breast augmentation requires a skilled plastic surgeon with experience performing this challenging procedure. The fat must be harvested appropriately, cleaned of impurities, and injected into the breast to achieve a natural result. This will reduce the risk of fat necrosis, which can occur when the transplanted fat cells die, or when breast tissue is damaged or disturbed.

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Pros and Cons of Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation

Natural breast augmentation achieves more modest results than breast implants. It may be right for you if you only want to go up one cup size at most. These are the pros and cons of fat transfer you’ll want to take into consideration. 

Benefits of Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation

  • Typically, the fat is “grafted” or taken from another part of your body such as your abdomen or thighs using liposuction. This can result in a beneficial two-for-one cosmetic experience.
  • Because your body fat is used, there is less chance of rejection compared to breast implants. There are none of the complications associated with breast implants. 
  • Incisions and scars are smaller since the procedure only requires liposuction to remove the fat, and an injection to place the fat cells in the breast.
  • The procedure does not affect nipple sensation. 

Risks/Disadvantages of Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation

  • There are limits to how much fat can be grafted at one time so multiple procedures are usually needed – two on average -- to get the results you seek.
  • It can take up to six months or more to achieve your final shape. This can prolong your recovery time and can make the cost of natural breast augmentation higher than breast implants. 
  • The results may be less predictable than breast implants. Sometimes the fat is reabsorbed by the body, which can change the results.
  • This is a limit to the breast size obtained. Typically, fat transfer increases breasts by one cup size at most. If you want larger breasts, you’ll need breast implants.
  • While fat transfer increases breast volume, your breasts will still sag over time. If sagging breasts are your concern, you may also need a breast lift now or in the future.
  • There is a risk of complications like fat necrosis, which can lead to painful scar tissue and cysts, as well as changes to breast skin appearance and shape.
  • Fat transfer breast augmentation may create suspicious false positive findings on mammograms. 
  • Liposuction can leave dents or scar tissue that can change the appearance of the area where fat is harvested.
Call for a Consultation

Consultation and Pre-Surgical Testing

What to Expect at Your First Consultation
When meeting for the first time, your plastic surgeon will discuss your reasons for pursuing breast augmentation, your desired outcome, and the expected results. We take time to understand your breast anatomy, skin elasticity, and body type. We conduct a thorough medical history, including your family history, general health status, previous operations, and any medications you may be taking. We examine your breasts and take measurements of their size, shape, the placement of your nipples and areolas. Photographs will be taken for your medical record. 

Personalized Treatment Recommendations
We complete the consultation with a personalized treatment recommendation based on your body’s anatomy and address your goals. We also discuss the potential risks and complications, and recovery. 

Cost of Natural Breast Augmentation
Breast augmentation for cosmetic reasons is an elective, procedure for healthy people that is not covered by insurance. The cost depends on how many and which procedures you need to achieve your goals. Your financial counselor will help you understand your financial responsibility. 

Pre-Surgical Testing 
To ensure you are in optimal health for surgery, blood work will test your liver and kidney function and will determine if you have any infection, blood disorder, or anemia, that may have gone previously undetected.

Consistently Ranked Among the Nation’s Best Hospitals

Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why we are once again recognized as the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 11 adult and 9 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

Natural Breast Augmentation Procedure

This outpatient procedure is typically performed in one of our accredited outpatient ambulatory surgery centers. General anesthesia will be administered by our board-certified anesthesia team. 

Your plastic surgeon will make small incisions in the area from where the fat will be harvested, such as your abdomen, thighs, or buttocks. That is determined by wherever you have sufficient fat to remove. A stainless-steel tube, called a cannula, is inserted through the incision, then gently loosens, and sucks out fat from the area. Depending on how much fat is removed, you may notice significant changes in the area and our surgeons will plan their liposuction to make these areas smooth and visually pleasing. The fat is purified to remove any impurities and then injected into different areas within your breast. Often more fat than needed is injected into the breasts at the time of the procedure. Over time, the swelling will dissipate and up to 50% of the transplanted fat will be reabsorbed. 

Recovery and Additional Procedures
You will experience bruising and swelling during the first two weeks following each fat transfer breast augmentation procedure. Additional procedures can be scheduled every six to 12 weeks until you achieve the optimal results. You will wear a compression garment in the area from which the fat was removed for 4 to 6 weeks. You should avoid exercising for 4 weeks. It takes about six months from the last procedure for fat transfer to your breast to settle, and for the final result to be seen.

This page was medically reviewed on 02/14/2024 by