Breast augmentation, technically known as augmentation mammoplasty, is a surgical procedure to enhance the size and shape of a woman’s breast for a number of reasons:
- To enhance the body contour of a woman who, for personal reasons, feels her breast size is too small.
- To restore breast volume lost due to weight loss or following pregnancy.
- To achieve better symmetry when breasts are moderately disproportionate in size and shape.
- To improve the shape of breasts that are sagging or have lost firmness, often used with a breast lift procedure.
- To provide the foundation of a breast contour when a breast has been removed or disfigured by surgery to treat breast cancer.
- To improve breast appearance or create the appearance of a breast that is missing or disfigured due to trauma, heredity, or congenital abnormalities.
By inserting an implant behind each breast, surgeons are able to increase a woman’s bust line by one or more cup sizes. If you’re considering breast augmentation, this will give you a basic understanding of the procedure – when it can help, how it’s performed, and what results you can expect. It can’t answer all of your questions, since a lot depends on your individual circumstances. Please ask your surgeon if there is anything you don’t understand about the procedure.
Breast Augmentation Candidates
Breast augmentation can enhance your appearance and your self-confidence, but it won’t necessarily change your looks to match your ideal, or cause other people to treat you differently. Before you decide to have surgery, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with your surgeon.
The best candidates for breast augmentation are women who are looking for improvement, not perfection, in the way they look. If you’re physically healthy and realistic in your expectations, you may be a good candidate.
Before & After Photos
Types of Implants
The choice of implant filler, implant size, shape and other features will be determined based on your breast anatomy, body type and your desired increase in size. Your lifestyle, goals and personal preferences, as well your plastic surgeon’s recommendations and sound surgical judgment are also determining factors. Implant manufacturers occasionally introduce new styles and types of implants, and therefore there may be additional options available to you.
By inserting an implant behind each breast, surgeons are able to increase a woman’s bust line by one or more cup sizes.
Breast implants are medical devices with a solid silicone, rubber shell. The implant shell may be filled with either saline solution (sterile salt water) or elastic silicone gel. Both saline and silicone gel breast implants are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Approval means that an implant has been rigorously researched and tested, and reviewed by an independent panel of physicians for safety.
The size of a breast implant is measured in cubic centimeters (ccs) based on the volume of the saline or silicone filler. Breast implants vary both by filler and in size, but there are additional features to consider:
- Texture: the implant shell may be smooth or textured.
- Shape: the implant may have a round profile or one that is anatomic (teardrop or tapered shape).
- Profile: the implant may have a low, medium or high projection (the depth of the implant from the base to the highest point of the implant curve).
- Diameter: the width of the implant measured across it’s base (the side of the implant that will be positioned over the chest wall).
Adult women of any age can benefit greatly from the enhancement breast implants provide. It is usually recommended, however, that a woman’s breasts are fully developed prior to placement of breast implants. Saline implants are FDA approved for augmentation in women 18 years of age and older. Silicone implants are FDA approved for augmentation in women age 22 and older. Saline or silicone implants may be recommended at a younger age if used for reconstruction purposes.
You should be aware that breast implants are not guaranteed to last a lifetime and future surgery may be required to replace one or both implants. Regular examinations for breast health and to evaluate the condition of your implants are important whether you have chosen saline or silicone breast implants.
Breast augmentation is relatively straightforward. But as with any operation, there are risks associated with surgery and specific complications associated with this procedure.
The most common problem, capsular contracture, occurs if the scar or capsule around the implant begins to tighten. This squeezing of the soft implant can cause the breast to feel hard. Capsular contracture can be treated in several ways, and sometimes requires either removal or “scoring” of the scar tissue, or perhaps removal or replacement of the implant.
As with any surgical procedure, excessive bleeding following the operation may cause some swelling and pain. If excessive bleeding continues, another operation may be needed to control the bleeding and remove the accumulated blood.
A small percentage of women develop an infection around an implant. This may occur at any time, but is most often seen within a week after surgery. In some cases, the implant may need to be removed for several months until the infection clears. A new implant can then be inserted.
Some women report that their nipples become oversensitive, under sensitive, or even numb. You may also notice small patches of numbness near your incisions. These symptoms usually disappear over time, but may be permanent in some patients.
Breast implants do not generally interfere with a woman’s ability to breast feed or present a health risk to a woman or her baby during pregnancy. However, pregnancy and the associated changes to a woman’s body may alter the results of any breast surgery, including surgery to place breast implants. Therefore, it is important to discuss the options of breast implant surgery with your plastic surgeon if you are interested in becoming pregnant and breast feeding in the future.
Occasionally, breast implants may break or leak. Rupture can occur as a result of injury or even from the normal compression and movement of your breast and implant, causing the man-made shell to leak.
Breast implants do not generally interfere with a woman’s ability to breast feed or present a health risk to a woman or her baby during pregnancy.
If a silicone gel-filled implant leaks or breaks, the elastic silicone gel may remain within the implant shell, or may escape into the breast implant pocket (a capsule of tissue that surrounds the implant). A leaking implant filled with silicone gel may not deflate and may not be noticeable except through imaging techniques such as an MRI. For this reason, a woman with silicone breast implants is advised to visit her plastic surgeon annually to assess that her implants are functioning well. An ultrasound exam or MRI screening can assess the condition of breast implants; after 3 years it is recommended that all silicone implants be properly screened.
Following the placement of breast implants, mammography is technically more difficult. Obtaining the best possible results requires specialized techniques and additional views. You must be candid about your implants when undergoing any diagnostic breast exam. In many cases, an ultrasound exam or MRI may be recommended in addition to mammography.
While the majority of women do not experience these complications, you should discuss each of them with your physician to make sure you understand the risks and consequences of breast augmentation.
The method of inserting and positioning your implant will depend on your anatomy and your surgeon’s recommendation. The incision can be made either in the crease where the breast meets the chest, around the areola (the dark skin surrounding the nipple), or in the armpit. In addition, a saline implant may be placed through an incision at the navel. Every effort will be made to assure that the incision is placed so resulting scars will be as inconspicuous as possible.
Working through the incision, the surgeon will lift your breast tissue and skin to create a pocket, either directly behind the breast tissue (submammary or subglandular placement) or may be placed beneath the pectoral muscle and on top of the chest wall (submuscular placement). You’ll want to discuss the pros and cons of these alternatives with your doctor before surgery to make sure you fully understand the implications of the procedure he or she recommends for you. Once the implant is positioned within this pocket, the incisions are closed with sutures, skin adhesive and/or surgical tape. A gauze bandage may be applied over your breasts to help with healing. The surgery usually takes one to two hours to complete.
Find out how to prepare for your surgery here.
Breast augmentation is usually done to balance a difference in breast size, to improve body contour, or as a reconstructive technique following surgery.
Incisions are made to keep scars as inconspicuous as possible, in the breast crease, around the nipple, or in the armpit. Breast tissue and skin is lifted to create a pocket for each implant.
The breast implant may be inserted directly under the breast tissue or beneath the chest wall muscle.
After surgery, breasts appear fuller and more natural in tone and contour. Scars will fade with time.