Fat transfer (lipomodelling)

Lipomodelling involves a doctor injecting fat from elsewhere in your body into your reconstructed breast to improve the look and feel of it.

About fat transfer (lipomodelling)

Lipomodelling is when a surgeon removes fat (lipo) from one area of the body to another. It can be used after breast reconstruction or sometimes before it to improve the look and feel of the breast. Lipomodelling may also be called lipofilling or autologous fat grafting.

When is lipomodelling used?

Lipomodelling can be used in different situations. Your reconstructive surgeon can give you more information and discuss the benefits and risks of lipodmodelling.  

It is not usually done until the reconstructed breast has fully healed, which takes about 6 to 12 months.

After breast reconstruction

After breast reconstruction, there may be dents or unevenness in the outline (contour) of the new breast. This unevenness may improve over a few months. But if the breast still looks uneven, your surgeon can inject fat into it  to improve the appearance.

If you have an implant

Women who have a breast implant may have lipomodelling to make the reconstructed breast (s) look and feel more natural. It can also be used to cover the appearance of rippling sometimes seen over implants. Lipomodelling may also make a breast reconstructed with an implant feel warmer.

Lipomodelling may also be recommended if you have lost an implant. It can help thicken the tissues before the implant is put back. 

Before breast reconstruction

In some women, lipomodelling is used before breast reconstruction. If you have had a mastectomy and radiotherapy, lipomodelling can improve the skin before reconstruction.

Having lipomodelling

Lipomodelling is done as a day-case, which means you can go home the same day. It is usually done under a general anaesthetic. But sometimes it may be done with a local anaesthetic to numb the area.

The surgeon removes fat from another part of your body and injects it into the breast. For example, fat from the thigh, tummy or occasionally the lower back can be used. The area where the fat was taken from is likely to be bruised, sore or numb afterwards. This will get better within a few weeks.

If you have lipomodelling done many times, you can also get irregularities in the area where the fat is taken from. If this happens, let your surgeon know as these can be smoothed out.

After lipomodelling

Some of the fat injected into the breast will be absorbed into the body. For a few weeks after the operation, you should wear a non-wired, supporting bra 24 hours a day. You should also avoid strenuous exercise. This will help reduce fat loss from the breast reconstruction. You may also be advised to wear supportive underwear to reduce swelling and bruising in the areas where the fat was taken from.

Fat injections usually need to be repeated a few times. This is because of the fat loss from the breast reconstruction. How many times varies from person to person. Injecting fat more than once also helps to make sure any uneven areas are smoothed out.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our breast cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    European Society for Medical Oncology. Primary breast cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of oncology 26 (supplement 5): v8–v30. 2015.

    Morrow M, et al. Chapter 79: malignant tumors of the breast. DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg’s cancer: principals and practice of oncology (10th edition). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 2014.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Early and locally advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and management. July 2018.

    Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. SIGN 134. Treatment of primary breast cancer: a national clinical guideline. September 2013.

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Rebecca Roylance, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.