While this is not a new concept in plastic surgery, the topic has been getting a lot of attention in the media lately. If you’ve been hearing or reading about natural breast augmentation and would like to know more, read on…
NONSURGICAL NATURAL BREAST AUGMENTATION
Natural breast augmentation can be divided into two categories: nonsurgical and surgical. Nonsurgical breast augmentation (not including herbal supplements and medicines purported to increase breast size) generally refers to vacuum suction devices that are placed on the external breast and are reported to promote modest increases in breast size in certain patients over a period of months. One of the most studied devices currently on the market is the BRAVAÒ nonsurgical system of breast enhancement. This system consists of two semi-rigid silicone domes and a computer chip that is placed over the chest and creates negative pressure. The device must be worn for at least ten consecutive hours per day for at least ten weeks. The computer chip maintains a constant vacuum and records the time the device is worn. At the end of ten weeks some women may notice an increase in breast size of up to 150-cc (i.e. one-half to one cup size depending on original breast volume and body mass index). After discontinuation, a decrease in breast volume is noticed but eventually stabilizes. The obvious benefit of this method of natural breast augmentation is the avoidance of surgically placed implants and the attendant risks. The downside is that only small, if any, increases in breast volume are noticed after treatment, the results are dependent on user compliance and some loss of volume is noticed with discontinuation. The cost of the BRAVAÒ system reported by the manufacturer as one-sixth to one-third the cost of traditional breast augmentation with implants. Additionally, the shape of the breast or nipple position is not altered in patients who have certain abnormal breast shapes or ptosis (i.e. sagging of the breasts). This is for very select, motivated patients with a desire for minimal increases in breast volume, this may be something to consider. It is not uncommon for women who did experience small increases in volume to proceed with surgical breast augmentation with implants once they saw an improvement in their appearance.
SURGICAL NATURAL BREAST AUGMENTATION
What most people are calling natural breast augmentation these days is actually a surgical breast augmentation procedure without the use of implants. This also is not a new procedure in plastic surgery and is usually achieved by performing liposuction on one part of a patient’s body where there is excess fat and injecting the aspirated fat into the patient’s breasts to obtain an increase in volume. The first procedure of this kind was performed in 1895 when Dr. Czerny, a German surgeon, used a lipoma (i.e. a benign fatty tumor) excised from a woman’s back to reconstruct a breast defect. Since then, fat grafting (i.e. the act of harvesting fat from one area of the body and placing into another area) has been used for breast reconstruction following breast cancer as well as other cosmetic procedures (click to learn about Brazilian Butt Lift and Correction of Liposuction Defects.
Throughout the years, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has cautioned its members on the use of fat grafting to healthy breast tissue for fear of interference with future mammograms and breast cancer detection. Recently, the ASPS has softened its stance on fat grafting healthy breasts and has allowed its members to proceed with caution.
Again, the benefit of fat grafting to augment breast tissue is obvious and includes the avoidance of breast implants with the added bonus of simultaneous liposuction. However, many patients seeking breast augmentation do not have enough excess fat available for harvesting to perform the desired amount of augmentation (and, no, you cannot borrow a family member’s or friend’s excess fat). Additionally, only 50 to 70 percent of grafted fat survives, when handled appropriately by an experienced surgeon, and thus patients may need more than one procedure to obtain the desired amount of augmentation. Like the BRAVAÒ system mentioned above, fat grafting to increase the volume of breasts does not alter the overall shape or nipple position and does not correct ptosis (i.e. sagging of the breasts).
In general, this procedure is in its infancy but represents a very exciting alternative to traditional breast augmentation in the not-so-distant future. Currently, there are no long-term comparison studies between natural breast augmentation and augmentation with implants. Please stay tuned to future blog posts for updates.
Jaime Perez, M.D.