Reconstruction of breasts with fat grafts is a new option for reconstruction after lumpectomy and irradiation.
This innovative treatment is based on the discovery that the layer of fat just beneath the skin is a rich source of stem cells – cells that have not yet developed into specialized cell types. One of the goals of this approach is to stimulate them to develop into new fat cells.
Fat is suctioned, usually from the abdomen or hips, and the stem cells it contains are then isolated by using a centrifuge. The extracted stem cells are then mixed in with the remaining fat and injected into the site of the breast lumpectomy defect. Ideally, the stem cells will either help keep the transplanted fat alive, or become fat cells themselves, or both.
Either way, the injected material remains and becomes living tissue.
“Is this technique experimental?”
The use of injected fat for augmentation purposes in other parts of the body is well established. Scientific studies to determine the long-term effectiveness of fat-grafting in the breast are still under way. In Dr. Meade’s practice, however, the approach has shown great promise and delivered excellent results.
“Is there any risk of an immune-system reaction to the injected material?”
All of the cells injected into the breast lumpectomy defect are autologous – that is, they have been harvested from the patient’s own living tissues. This minimizes the possibility of the material being recognized as “foreign” by the immune system.