Journal scan

Fat grafting is found to halve post-mastectomy pain

A look at the latest research from the nursing and medical journals
Woman with chest pain

Persistent post-mastectomy neuropathic pain is a significant problem for a substantial proportion of patients undergoing the procedure for breast cancer, with almost half patients in some studies reporting the symptom.

The use of fat grafting as a means of analgesia has been reported before, but this Danish study represents the first controlled trial examining its effectiveness.

Data from 15 patients who participated in the trial were reported. A total of 8 received fat grafting to the area of the missing breast (and axilla if indicated) while 7 constituted the control group.

Pain scores were assessed at baseline (randomisation), and at 3 and 6-months post-procedure, using validated evaluation scores, such as the neuropathic pain symptom inventory (NPSI), the DoloTest health-related quality of life instrument, and the rating of the scar by both patient

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Persistent post-mastectomy neuropathic pain is a significant problem for a substantial proportion of patients undergoing the procedure for breast cancer, with almost half patients in some studies reporting the symptom.


Post-mastectomy neuropathic pain is significant for a number of patients. Picture: iStock

The use of fat grafting as a means of analgesia has been reported before, but this Danish study represents the first controlled trial examining its effectiveness.

Data from 15 patients who participated in the trial were reported. A total of 8 received fat grafting to the area of the missing breast (and axilla if indicated) while 7 constituted the control group.

Pain scores were assessed at baseline (randomisation), and at 3 and 6-months post-procedure, using validated evaluation scores, such as the neuropathic pain symptom inventory (NPSI), the DoloTest health-related quality of life instrument, and the rating of the scar by both patient and observer. 

Fat grafting was found to improve the patients’ well-being and outcomes across all measures.

Pain scores improved, on visual analogue score and NPSI. All patients bar one in the fat grafting arm of the study pronounced a pain-relieving effect, with average pain reduction reported as 54%. Quality of life was significantly improved, as was patients’ appraisal of the quality of the operation scar.

Juhl AA et al (2016) Fat grafting for alleviating persistent pain after breast cancer treatment: a randomised controlled trial. Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery. 69, 1192-1202.

Journal Scan is compiled by Dion Smyth, lecturer-practitioner in cancer and palliative care, Birmingham City University.

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