Lipotransfer for radiation-induced skin fibrosis

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Radiation-induced fibrosis (RIF) is a late complication of radiotherapy that results in progressive functional and cosmetic impairment. Autologous fat has emerged as an option for soft tissue reconstruction. There are also sporadic reports suggesting regression of fibrosis following regional lipotransfer. This systematic review aimed to identify cellular mechanisms driving RIF, and the potential role of lipotransfer in attenuating these processes.


PubMed, OVID and Google Scholar databases were searched to identify all original articles regarding lipotransfer for RIF. All articles describing irradiated fibroblast or myofibroblast behaviour were included. Data elucidating the mechanisms of RIF, role of lipotransfer in RIF and methods to quantify fibrosis were extracted.


Ninety-eight studies met the inclusion criteria. A single, definitive model of RIF is yet to be established, but four cellular mechanisms were identified throughin vitrostudies. Twenty-one studies identified connective tissue growth factor and transforming growth factor β1 cytokines as drivers of fibrotic cascades. Hypoxia was demonstrated to propagate fibrogenesis in three studies. Oxidative stress from the release of reactive oxygen species and free radicals was also linked to RIF in 11 studies. Purified autologous fat grafts contain cellular and non-cellular properties that potentially interact with these processes. Six methods for quantifying fibrotic changes were evaluated including durometry, ultrasound shear wave elastography, thermography, dark field imaging, and laser Doppler and laser speckle flowmetry.


Understanding how lipotransfer causes regression of RIF remains unclear; there are a number of new hypotheses for future research.

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