Increasing Fat Graft Retention in Irradiated Tissue after Preconditioning with External Volume Expansion

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Surgery, Division of Plastic Surgery; Department of Radiation Oncology; School of Medicine; Senior Scholars Program

Faculty Mentor

Janice Lalikos

Publication Date


Document Type



Medical Education | Plastic Surgery | Radiation Medicine


BACKGROUND: Fat grafting is an adjuvant that may improve the quality of radiation-damaged tissue. However, fat grafting for volume restoration in irradiated sites may be less effective because of a poorly vascularized fibrotic recipient bed. External volume expansion has emerged as a potential technique to prepare the recipient sites for improved survival of grafted fat. The authors previously demonstrated increased vasculature with external volume expansion stimulation of irradiated tissues. The authors now hypothesize that external volume expansion's improvements in recipient-site vascularity will increase the volume retention and quality of fat grafts in fibrotic irradiated sites.

METHODS: Athymic mice were irradiated until development of chronic radiation injury. Then, the irradiated site was stimulated by external volume expansion (external volume expansion group), followed by subcutaneous fat grafting. Grafts in an irradiated site without external volume expansion stimulation (irradiated control group) and grafts in a healthy nonirradiated (nonirradiated control group) site were used as controls. All grafts were monitored for 8 weeks and evaluated both histologically and by micro-computed tomography for analysis of volume retention.

RESULTS: Hyperspectral imaging confirmed a 25 percent decrease in vascularity of irradiated tissue (irradiated control group) compared with nonirradiated tissue (nonirradiated control group). Grafts in the irradiated control group retained 11 percent less volume than grafts in the nonirradiated control group. The experimental external volume expansion group achieved a 20 percent (p = 0.01) increase in retained graft volume compared with the irradiated control group.

CONCLUSIONS: External volume expansion stimulation can mitigate the effects of irradiation at the recipient site and in turn help preserve fat graft volume retention. Possible mechanisms include increased vascularity, adipogenic conversion, and increased compliance of a fibrotic recipient site.

DOI of Published Version



Lujan-Hernandez J, Chin MS, Perry DJ, Chappell A, Lancerotto L, Yu N, Slamin RP, Bannon E, Fitzgerald TJ, Lalikos JF. Increasing Fat Graft Retention in Irradiated Tissue after Preconditioning with External Volume Expansion. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2020 Jan;145(1):103-112. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000006372. PMID: 31577660. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Plastic and reconstructive surgery


Robert Slamin participated in this study as a medical student in the Senior Scholars research program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID