American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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Fat Injection Appears Safe for Reconstruction after Breast Cancer Surgery
Researchers Say Lipofilling Should Be Performed by Experts with Close Follow-Up

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Preliminary experience suggests that lipofilling - using fat from elsewhere in the patient's body for contouring of the breasts - is a safe procedure for women who have undergone breast cancer surgery, reports a study in the August issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

"Lipofilling [after] breast cancer treatment leads to a low complication rate and does not affect the radiologic follow-up after breast-conserving surgery," according to Dr. Jean Yves Petit of the European Institute of Oncology, Milano, and colleagues. However, the researchers emphasize that long-term follow-up studies are needed to confirm the safety of the lipofilling procedure.

Experience at Three Hospitals Shows Low Complication Rate

Researchers at three French and Italian hospitals evaluated 513 women who underwent lipofilling after breast cancer surgery from 2000 to 2010. In the lipofilling procedure, fat obtained by liposuction from one part of the body - for example, the thighs - is injected into the breast. Lipofilling for breast contouring was performed after mastectomy and breast reconstruction in 370 women and after lumpectomy in 143 women.

Lipofilling was performed an average of about three years after breast cancer surgery. The average amount of fat transferred was 107 cc, or about four fluid ounces. Some women had more than one lipofilling procedure because of reabsorption of the injected fat.

The overall complication rate was low: less than three percent. Most complications were related to necrosis of some of the injected fat. However, there were few serious complications.

During follow-up, breast cancer recurrences developed in 5.6 percent of patients. Follow-up mammograms from women who underwent breast-conserving surgery and lipofilling showed new abnormalities in 12 cases, two of which were recurrent breast cancers. There was no evidence that lipofilling interfered with the ability to detect recurrence. However, Dr. Petit and colleagues emphasize that a biopsy of the area should be obtained if there is any doubt.

Lipofilling is a promising option for breast contouring after breast reconstruction or lumpectomy in women with breast cancer. However, the procedure remains controversial. Although the new study can't prove that lipofilling after breast cancer surgery is safe, it provides reassurance that the complication rate is low. It also suggests that lipofilling doesn't interfere with follow-up mammograms after breast-conserving surgery.

The researchers emphasize the need for further studies of lipofilling after breast cancer surgery, including a larger group of patients, a matched control group, and long-term follow-up. "Until then," Dr. Petit and coauthors conclude, "lipofilling should be performed in experienced hands and a cautious oncologic follow up protocol is advised."

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

About Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

For over 75 years, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® has been the one consistently excellent reference for every specialist who uses plastic surgery techniques or works in conjunction with a plastic surgeon. The official journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® brings subscribers up-to-the-minute reports on the latest techniques and follow-up for all areas of plastic and reconstructive surgery, including breast reconstruction, experimental studies, maxillofacial reconstruction, hand and microsurgery, burn repair and cosmetic surgery, as well as news on medico-legal issues.

About ASPS

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. Representing more than 11,000 physician members worldwide, the society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 92 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the society represents physicians certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

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