Fat grafting the breast is a controversial topic. A biotech firm claims to have come up with a feasible model for immediate reconstruction of lumpectomy defects involving injecting stem cells from fatty liposuction aspirate of a patient's abdomen. The process from Cytori Therapeutics is called Celution™ . The San Diego Times-Union featured this a few months ago here.

From Forbes Magazine:

In the technique, adipose (fat) tissue is taken from the patient, using a minor liposuction-like procedure. The tissue is then placed into the Celution system, and processing begins. An hour or so later, a dose of regenerative cells is delivered back to the patient, injected in the breast. Fat tissue contains many types of cells, (Thomas) Baker said, but the stem cells and regenerative cells are the "stars" that make the reconstruction possible

Now it's unwise to blow off the wisdom of a guy like Dr. Tom Baker, the Miami plastic surgeon of historic contributions to our field (particularly in face-lift surgery & by virtue of him literally inventing the first effective chemical peel in the late 1950's), but I have some doubts about this. It's going to take at least 10-15 years of incredibly close follow-up to make any kind of conclusion about the effect of stem cell fat-grafting a breast with cancer. The premise of injecting pleuripotent (cells which can "turn" into other cells in layman's terms) stem cells into an organ that's cancer-prone sets off lots of alarm bells. Like "regular" fat grafts, you presumably are going to create mammogram artifacts, which is something you have to approach carefully in someone with a personal history of breast cancer. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has come out on the record in 2006 against fat grafting of the breast for just such concerns.

Also, on a more practical level, who is going to pay for this?

Most lumpectomy sites don't require any treatment for starters. As I understand this kind of stem-cell "transplant", it takes several hours to harvest and prepare the cells which is expensive time in an O.R. In an era where reimbursement for surgeons performing breast cancer reconstruction has fallen nearly 75-80% since 1990, I cannot imagine this being adopted by Medicare or other 3rd party insurance payers and if they do it will not be economically feasible to perform it. This is what happened to surgery using your own tissues (ie. TRAM flaps), the congress mandated coverage for breast cancer reconstruction in legislation, but Medicare and insurers subsequently made it difficult to earn a living doing it, particularly in the case of muscle flaps or microsurgical reconstructions.

The stem-cell potential of this kind of technology seems to have much more practical potential in areas like ischemic heart disease and neurodegenerative processes IMO then reconstructive Plastic Surgery. If the price comes down, use for cosmetic injections in the face might also be an interesting indication.


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