Background: Autologous fat grafting has become a common technique for optimizing aesthetic outcomes following breast reconstruction. Its long-term oncologic implications, however, remain unclear. The authors evaluated long-term outcomes following tissue expander breast reconstruction with and without fat grafting.
Methods: A retrospective review was performed of consecutive patients undergoing mastectomy with immediate tissue expander reconstruction from April of 1998 to August of 2008. Demographic, operative, oncologic, and postoperative factors were recorded, including the use of fat grafting. Mean follow-up was 42.1 ± 28.8 and 43.6 ± 27.2 months for non-fat-grafting and fat-grafting patients, respectively (p = 0.63), including 24.8 ± 5.9 months after the first fat-grafting procedure. Fisher's exact test, t test, and regression analysis were used for statistics.
Results: A review of 886 patients (n = 1202 breasts) revealed no significant differences in demographics, operative characteristics, tumor staging, or radiation therapy exposure between fat-grafting (n = 90 breasts) and non-fat-grafting (n = 1112 breasts) patients. Ninety-nine fat-grafting procedures were performed an average of 18.3 months after reconstruction, with one complication (fat necrosis). Grafting did not affect local tumor recurrence or survival when compared with non-fat-grafted breasts. Complication following reconstruction, including a poor cosmetic result, was an independent predictor of undergoing subsequent fat grafting (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: The analysis suggests that fat grafting after breast reconstruction does not adversely affect local tumor recurrence or survival on long-term follow-up. Autologous fat grafting can be used as an aesthetic adjunct to prosthetic reconstruction with minimal complications. These results also indicate the need for multi-institutional, prospective studies to definitively establish its oncologic safety.
Clinical question/level of evidence: Therapeutic, III.