The Role of Fat Grafting in Alleviating Neuropathic Pain: A Critical Review of the Literature

Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2019 May 21;7(5):e2216. doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000002216. eCollection 2019 May.


Background: Neuropathic pain is one of the more severe types of chronic pain and presents a great challenge as response to medical therapy remains often unpredictable. With the opioid epidemic and the search for ways to avoid narcotics, physicians are seeking other modalities to treat neuropathic pain. In recent years, surgeons have explored various surgical avenues to improve outcomes. The aim of this review was to evaluate the current clinical evidence regarding the efficacy of fat grafting for the treatment of neuropathic pain.

Methods: A critical review was conducted to examine the current clinical evidence of fat grafting as a therapy for neuropathic pain caused by neuromas, peripheral neuralgia, migraine and headaches, neuropathic scar pain, and postmastectomy pain syndrome.

Results: The precise mechanism role of fat grafting in modulating neuropathic pain remains unclear, but it appears to reduce pain levels through the anti-inflammatory effects of adipose-derived stem cells and mechanical cushioning by fat.

Conclusions: Fat grafting is an emerging therapy for chronic neuropathic pain of various etiologies. Although promising results have been reported, sample size and level of evidence of current studies are low. The encouraging results, however, are worthy of further clinical and scientific study. The minimally invasive nature of fat grafting and favorable risk profile make this an attractive therapy for neuropathic pain.