Bicompartmental breast lipostructuring

Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2008 Mar;32(2):313-28. doi: 10.1007/s00266-007-9089-3.


The techniques of additive mastoplasty described over the years require the use of alloplastic materials (silicon), which often are poorly tolerated by the body and need access paths that could leave visible, unaesthetic residual scars. Furthermore, the controversy over silicone gel-filled breast implants, which in the early 1990s restricted their clinical use for primary cosmetic breast augmentation, still raises concerns in some patients. The authors therefore felt encouraged to search for alternatives to breast implants and reconsider fat transfer. In fact, for almost a century, autologous adipose tissue has been used safely and with success in many other surgical fields for the correction of volumetric soft tissue defects. Its natural, soft consistency, the absence of rejection, and the versatility of use in many surgical techniques have always made autologous adipose tissue an ideal filling material. In the past, the authors used this technique, as originally described by Fournier (intraparenchymal, en bloc injection), for 41 patients. However, disappointed by a very high rate of complications and the almost complete reabsorption of the grafted fat, they quit using the procedure. An extensive literature review indicated that the complications observed were related only to technical errors and to the anatomic site of harvesting and implantation. The authors therefore developed a new method incorporating recent contributions in functional anatomy and fat transfer. Fat is harvested in a rigorously closed system, minimally manipulated, and reimplanted strictly in two planes only: into the retroglandular and prefascial space and into the superficial subcutaneous plane of the upper pole of the breast (bicompartmental grafting). Any intraparenchymal placement is carefully avoided. Since 1998, 181 patients (300 breasts) have undergone this procedure. Grafted fat volume has ranged from 160 to 685 ml (average, 325 ml) per breast. Complications have been minimal and temporary. All patients have been carefully monitored with preoperative and serial postoperative mammograms and ultrasonograms. This strict follow-up assessment allowed the authors to clarify the controversial aspect of microcalcifications, the main point of criticism for this procedure over the years. Microcalcifications can occur in response to any trauma or surgery of the breast, but are very different in appearance and location. Thus, they can be discriminated easily from those appearing in the context of a neoplastic focus. Probably the most important point is that the fat survival ranged from 40% to 70% at 1 year. The volume is maintained because when the authors transplant living fat tissue, they also transfer a consistent amount of adult mesenchymal stem cells that spontaneously differentiate into preadipocytes and then into adipocytes, compensating for the partial loss of mature adipocytes reabsorbed through time. This theory has been well demonstrated via advanced research performed by the authors and by many other prominent medical institutes worldwide. The findings show that adipose tissue has the same potential for growth of adult mesenchymal totipotential stem cells of bone marrow and can eventually be differentiated easily by the use of specific growing factors and according to the needs and applications in other cellular lines (osteogenic, chondrogenic, myogenic, epithelial). In summary, the authors wish to highlight a formerly controversial procedure that, thanks to recent technical and clinical progress, has become a safe and viable alternative to the use of alloplastic materials for breast augmentation for all cases in which additive mastoplasty with implants is either unsuitable or unacceptable by the patient herself. However this method cannot be considered yet as a complete substitute for augmentation with implants because the degree of augmentation and projection still is limited.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / transplantation*
  • Breast / surgery*
  • Esthetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology