Written by: Dr. Nerina Wilkinson – MBChB (Stell), FCS Plast (SA)
Prosthetic breast implants have been the golden standard for breast enhancement for decades. However, many women are not ready for the recovery and possible complications that go along with breast implant surgery and are therefore becoming more and more interested in non-surgical breast lift techniques to improve the size and shape of their breasts.
Table of contents
- WHAT IS NON-SURGICAL BREAST AUGMENTATION?
- BREAST ENLARGEMENT PUMPS: THE BRAVA SYSTEM
- BREAST ENHANCEMENT PILLS AND LOTIONS
- BREAST ENHANCEMENT INJECTIONS
- BREAST AUGMENTATION WITH FAT TRANSFER
- WHERE ARE NON-SURGICAL BREAST AUGMENTATIONS PERFORMED IN SOUTH AFRICA?
- FINAL THOUGHTS ON NON-SURGICAL BREAST AUGMENTATION
WHAT IS NON-SURGICAL BREAST AUGMENTATION?
Non-surgical breast augmentation is the act of enhancing breast shape and size without having to go under the knife. Most commonly, this procedure is a form of liposculpting where the shape of the body is changed by removing fat from one area and sculpting/augmenting another area. The fat is harvested using a small blunt cannula and is then cleaned and centrifuged before use. There are other non-surgical breast enhancement techniques on the market, we will get into that further down.
Let’s talk about some non-surgical breast enhancement techniques available today:
BREAST ENLARGEMENT PUMPS: THE BRAVA SYSTEM
The Brava System is a medieval-looking breast pump that achieves breast enhancement without surgery, and was released in 2001. It is a vacuum-based external soft-tissue expansion system that creates a slight vacuum around the breasts with two plastic domes which then gently pull on the skin and gland. This soft gel-like bra comes with its own pump which is controlled by a little computer. To see some results, it is recommended that you wear this pump system over the breast for 10-13 hours a day, every day for 10 – 30 months.
Studies have shown that you can expect a modest 150 cc (½ to 1 cup size) increase in bust size.
I am however not sure whether the ultimate small increase in breast size validates the discomfort of wearing a large device like the Brava for so many months. The cost of over 30 months of self-treatment with this uncomfortable device can also amount to over R40 000. Worth it?
BREAST ENHANCEMENT PILLS AND LOTIONS
There are many natural pills and creams being advertised to increase the size of breast tissue. Many of these herbal remedies theoretically increase the size of breasts due to their estrogen-like effects on the body, as do birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. The increase in breast size comes from the estrogen that causes fluid retention in the breasts, and the main concern with these is that most websites selling natural breast enhancement pills do not list the potential risks, and there are many.
Unfortunately, “all-natural” breast enhancement pills are often interpreted by patients as being safe (it’s all-natural, so what could go wrong?). The reality is that no one really knows what possible side effects these breast enhancement pills may have, and there is also no evidence that the results will last. Even though they cause the breasts to swell up a bit (instead of actually increasing in size), as soon as the drug is withdrawn the effect wears off.
Adriane Fugh-Berman, M.D., professor of complementary and alternative medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, said in an article published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, “The use of non-surgical breast lift products should be discouraged because of lack of evidence for efficacy and long-term safety concerns.” And we have to agree.
BREAST ENHANCEMENT INJECTIONS
Over the past 10 years, the use of reabsorbable fillers has been explored. One of these examples is Macrolane, a hyaluronic acid gel-based technology that has been available on the French market since 2007. At the end of 2008, Macrolane received a CE mark for breast augmentation. This means that the goods were seen to conform to European health, safety, and environmental protection standards.
The procedure was widely marketed as a non-surgical breast lift procedure and was performed in the clinical rooms in less than 2 hours, with no scarring, rapid results, and no downtime. The ideal patient for this procedure was someone wishing to have a modest increase in the size of their breasts without undergoing surgery.
Since then, Macrolane has been withdrawn from a few countries due to technique (injection) problems in Europe. It was not the product that was at fault here, but rather the way that it was been used. The main concern has been that the injections caused “clouding confusion” problems on mammograms and ultrasounds, which confused the results of these radiology tests.
Due to a lack of scientific data on the use of this product in the breasts, Macrolane has also not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, and there have also been some reports of granulomas resulting in hard lumps of the breasts.
Considering all the above, I strongly recommend that patients and doctors review the lack of data on Macrolane for non-surgical breast enlargement use.
When it comes to the cost of this procedure, you can expect to pay around R 50 000 every few years, seeing that this is a filler product that is not permanent and has to be “redone” every 2 years or so.
BREAST AUGMENTATION WITH FAT TRANSFER
Now, this is a non-surgical breast enlargement solution we get very excited about! With breast fat transfer, your own body fat can be harvested from one area of the body and injected into the breast to improve the shape.
Breast fat grafts offer several advantages over breast implants, including decreased scarring and lack of complications associated with the implantation of foreign material.
Women who desire much larger, firmer, or rounded breasts may however not be an appropriate candidate for breast fat transplant as fat grafts result in a more natural-looking appearance. Similarly, fat grafts to the breasts are not a viable option for women lacking significant sources of donor fat for liposuction (for example, if they are too skinny) as the volume of fat required to complete a non-surgical breast fat transfer procedure is very high.
Breast augmentation with fat transfer can realistically also only achieve a natural, small 100cc volume breast enhancement, but for many women seeking non-surgical breast enlargement procedures, this is more than enough.
HOW DOES A BREAST FAT TRANSPLANT WORK?
With breast fat grafting, fat is removed by means of liposuction from a part of your body that has abundant unwanted fat deposits. This fat is then purified through a specific technique and then injected back into the areas of the breasts that requires contouring.
Fat injections work by creating fullness, giving a “lift” to the general structure. The goal is, therefore, to give fullness to the breasts resulting in a more youthful state.
In addition to adding volume, fat is extremely rich in stem cells which are also re-injected along with the fat. Stem cells are known as “the fountain of youth” and help to stimulate many other cells in the body to improve their functions. Due to the addition of stem cells with breast fat grafting, breast tissue rejuvenation can also be expected, and not simply an increase in breast size.
HOW IS BREAST FAT GRAFTING PERFORMED?
As mentioned above, the fat is harvested in the theatre under local anaesthetic or sedation.
The harvesting area is usually the knee or inner thigh, but when larger volumes are required for breast augmentation, the abdomen, and flanks are good donor areas. This procedure is a form of liposculpting where the shape of the body is changed by removing fat from one area and sculpting/augmenting another area.
The fat is harvested using a small blunt cannula and is then cleaned and centrifuged.
The breasts are then anaesthetized and the fat is precisely injected into the areas that require treatment. The amount of fat injected into each area is always more than required, as the body will reabsorb 40-50% of the fat injected initially. We, therefore, inject more than what is required to compensate for this fat reabsorption.
A non-surgical breast fat grafting procedure can take anything from 1 – 6 hours depending on the areas requiring grafting.
HOW LONG IS THE BREAST FAT GRAFTING HEALING PROCESS?
Breast fat grafting patients are discharged on the same day as the surgery, accompanied by painkillers and antibiotics. A compression bandage is worn on the harvested area for a week post-procedure to help decrease swelling and bruising.
Results will be visible immediately, however, extensive swelling and bruising can be expected for 1 – 2 weeks after the procedure. The final results (after some of the fat have been reabsorbed) will be apparent by 6 – 12 weeks.
Non-surgical breast fat grafting is more costly than conventional breast augmentation surgery due to the lengthy surgical time required to harvest and prepare the fat for injection. The procedure may also need to be repeated for optimal volume results after 12 months.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF NON-SURGICAL BREAST ENLARGEMENT WITH FAT GRAFTING?
Breast fat grafting provides two amazing benefits in one procedure. Liposuction removes fat from a particular “problem” area of the body and helps create a more defined contour in that area(s). The other (most sought-after) benefit is the natural breast enhancement results that are achieved. Non-surgical breast augmentation with fat achieves results that are subtle and not noticeably augmented. Other benefits of non-surgical breast enlargement include:
- Retention of breast sensitivity
- Lower risk of surgical complications
- Minimal (or no) scarring
- A much faster recovery period
- A totally natural look and feel
WHERE ARE NON-SURGICAL BREAST AUGMENTATIONS PERFORMED IN SOUTH AFRICA?
To discover the ideal surgical or non-surgical breast enhancement solutions for you, we recommend seeking out a breast surgery expert which can advise and guide you through the safest and most suitable procedures available today.
To consult with us at our clinic in the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON NON-SURGICAL BREAST AUGMENTATION
Our approach towards breast surgery is to create a natural-looking result as most of our patients today desire beautifully shaped breasts that do not look as though they’ve been operated on. Another reason why non-surgical breast enlargement by means of fat grafting has become such a sought-after procedure.
In patients who are indeed ready for surgical intervention and who request breast implant surgery, the trend is also to use more naturally shaped breast implants that prevent the tell-tale round and “stuck on” appearance of breast augmentation surgery. At our clinic, natural-looking results always win!