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Surgeons test a combination technique of fat grafting and implant-based reconstruction

A new study of breast reconstruction after radiation therapy has shown promising results. The technique combines implant-based reconstruction with fat grafting.

For women who have undergone radiation therapy for breast cancer, the new technique may provide an alternative for breast reconstruction.

“Fat grafting seems to reduce the radiation-induced complications in implants,” said the study authors, who were led by Dr. Salgarello Marzja of University Hospital “A. Gemelli” in Rome.

Fat Provides Bed for Implants in Reconstruction

Because of an increased risk of complications, women who have undergone radiation therapy are usually not considered for reconstruction using breast implants.

During a three-year period, the doctors used the experimental technique in sixteen patients who underwent surgery and radiation therapy for breast cancer.

Eleven women had a mastectomy, while five women had a lumpectomy or another type of breast-conserving surgery. Their reconstruction began at least three to six months after radiation therapy was completed.

In fat grafting, the fat was removed with liposuction and then injected into the radiation-treated area, providing a bed of healthy tissue in the chest wall or remaining breast.

All patients received two or three fat grafts. When the area showed no signs of radiation toxicity, they performed the final reconstruction and implant placement.

A Small Study With Promising Results

The results were encouraging. 94 percent of patients had a final appearance that was rated “excellent to good.” Patient satisfaction was also rated high to very high. At an average follow-up of 15 months, there were no complications. All patients had good healing of the tissues surrounding the implant.

The study suggests that initial fat grafting may enable successful implant-based reconstruction for the growing number of women who have undergone radiation therapy for breast cancer.

“Larger studies with a longer follow-up are required to confirm our findings,” Dr. Marzja said.” With further study, the combination technique might give women who have undergone radiation therapy a new breast reconstruction option.

You can find the study in the February issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

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