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Latest Study Contradicts Earlier Findings

WebMD Health News

Fat Injection for Breast Enlargement May Hinder Mammogram

April 14, 2011 -- Breast augmentation involving injections of fat taken from other parts of the body is an increasingly popular alternative to breast implants and traditional lifts. But there are new concerns that the procedure may interfere with mammogram readings.

In a newly published study from China, nearly one in seven women who had the fat injections developed calcifications in their breasts that were considered “highly suspicious” for breast cancer. The findings appear to contradict other research, published just last month, in which researchers concluded that the calcifications resulting from fat injections were unlikely to be mistaken for cancer by radiologists.

Both studies appeared in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Fat Injections Controversial

Known medically as lipomodeling, lipoinjection, or fat grafting, the practice of reshaping the breasts using a woman’s own fat is still somewhat controversial.

Reconstructive surgeon Kamran Khoobehi, who directs the aesthetic surgery training program at Louisiana State University, has performed more than 200 of the procedures. He says many surgeons with very little experience are now also doing them because they have become so popular with patients.

“A lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon who may or may not know what they are doing, so patients need to be careful,” he says.

In the study, researchers followed 48 women who had fat injections to enlarge or reshape their breasts, performing mammograms 18 months to several years after the injections.

These mammograms showed calcifications that raised the suspicion of breast cancer in eight of the women. Breast biopsy confirmed that none of the women actually had breast cancer.

Researcher Cong-Feng Wang, MD, and colleagues concluded that the calcifications appeared to be caused by injected fat cells that had died and clumped together.

The researchers found the clustered calcifications to be indistinguishable on mammograms from those associated with breast cancer, and they concluded that fat injections should not be used for cosmetic breast augmentation.

Radiologist: ‘Fat Cells Look Different’

But Khoobehi disagrees, calling the Chinese study highly flawed.

He says the researchers appeared to make no attempt to avoid injecting dead fat cells along with living cells when they performed the procedure, which would have increased the chances for calcification.

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