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Stem Cells and Breast Surgery

Rating

5 Star

Stem Cells and Breast Surgery

Our Review Summary

This story could have touted a novel and untested cosmetic procedure, but instead the reporting is appropriately cautious and balanced. The reporter clearly informs readers about the procedure and does an excellent job listing the potential harms of the relatively untested fat and stem cell transfer.  Appropriate caveats include discussion that this stem cell and fat grafting mixture is unstudied in women with a history of breast cancer (candidates for reconstruction), a population possibly more vulnerable to long-term harms of fat injections in the breast area. The story also notes the potential need for multiple revision surgeries if the fat and stem cell transfer does not take. Costs of the initial surgery and these additional surgeries are discussed.  The story also lists potential long-term harms for all women, including obscured mammograms due to calcification from necrotic fat.

The 5-star story also does an excellent job citing multiple sources to provide balanced information on this new breast augmentation technique.  The story clearly explains the rationale for the addition of stem cells to a woman’s own fat to augment and/or reconstruct her breast tissue. The story notes the lack of evidence for this fat and stem cell grafting procedure. The story notes that plastic surgeons and device manufacturers are currently enrolling women in clinical trials so this procedure can be studied for safety and cosmetic outcomes.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story provides a range of the costs of the procedure for cosmetic purposes and also notes cost of additional surgeries that may be needed to correct for fat-grafting that did not survive after an initial procedure.  This procedure may not be approved by health insurance for reconstruction due to the lack of evidence for safety and long-term outcomes.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story provides one surgeon’s average fat-grafting and stem cell survival rate, about 54%.   The story notes current research on this new fat-grafting to determine short and long-term health and cosmetic outcomes.  The story clearly and carefully explains the procedure and the rationale for the addition of stem cells to a transfer of a woman’s fat to her breast tissue. The story notes that the makers of a machine that would mix fat and stem cells more effectively is sponsoring tests in Europe and is proposing tests in the U.S.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story does an excellent job listing the potential harms of the procedure.  The story gives appropriate caveats that this stem cell and fat grafting is relatively unstudied in women with a history of breast cancer, a population possibly more vulnerable to long-term harms of fat injections in the breast area. The story notes the potential need for multiple revision surgeries if the fat transfer does not take.  The story notes that women looking for increased bresat volume beyond 1 cup size would likely not be candidates.  The story appropriately lists potential long-term harms, including obscured mammograms due to nercrosis and calcifications from the fat.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

The story notes the lack of evidence for this procedure. The story notes that plastic surgeons are currently enrolling women in clinical trials so this procedure can be studied for safety and positive cosmetic outcomes. The story lists notes an average fat-grafting survival of 54%, which means a high likelihood for additional surgeries. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not engage in disease mongering. The story is quite balanced in the description of this relatively new cosmetic and reconstructive technique that is being used by some cosmetic and plastic surgeons.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

The story does an excellent job citing varied sources to provide the reader with multiple perspectives on this new breast augmentation technique.  The story provides both positive and cautious testimonials from a range of cosmetic and reconstructive specialists, researchers and a patient who had the procedure.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story notes that this procedure is largely for cosmetic purposes, but it has been used as a reconstructive technique. Fat transfer has been used without stem cells for reconstruction for about 10 years.  The story also notes the more common silicone and saline implants as options for breast reconstrution and augmentation.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story focuses on this fat injection with stem cells as a procedure for cosmetic augmentation or reconstruction following breast cancer surgery.  The story notes that while some plastic and cosmetic surgeons are experimenting with this procedure, it is a "biologic product" (due to mixture of a person’s own fat w. additional stem cells) which is not currently approved by the FDA. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story notes that this is a newer procedure for breast augmentation and possibly breast reconstruction.  Fat grafting is not new in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. The additional of stem cells to a person’s own fat is new and the story notes that long-term outcome of fat and stem cells in breast tissue is not known. 

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

The story has a great deal of independent reporting and does not rely solely on a press release for information about this procedure.

Total Score: 10 of 10 Satisfactory

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