What is a breast augmentation?

A breast augmentation is an operation to use silicone or saline (salt water) implants to make your breasts larger, and usually to improve their shape.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your breasts should be larger and have a better shape.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Using padded bras or bra inserts can make your breasts look larger with a better shape.

Natural breast enhancement pills may help to increase the size of your breasts. However, these pills have not been properly tested.

Some surgeons may recommend injecting your own fat into your breasts. However, this technique is new and we do not know how safe it is.

Injecting synthetic material into your breasts has a temporary effect.

What kind of breast implant should I choose?

All implants are made of an outer layer (shell) of silicone. They can be filled with silicone or saline.

The silicone used to fill the implant can be in the form of a liquid or gel (cohesive silicone). Liquid silicone and saline implants give a softer and more natural feel. Cohesive silicone implants give a firmer feel and come in more shapes.

Textured liquid implants with a simple round shape often give as good results as shaped cohesive-gel implants.

Polyurethane-coated implants give a firmer consistency.

Is silicone safe?

Many studies have been carried out to find if silicone breast implants are safe. There is no evidence to suggest that women with silicone breast implants have a higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases such as breast cancer and arthritis. There is a reported link between having an implant and a rare type of cancer called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma but the increase in risk is small.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about 90 minutes.

Your surgeon will usually place the implant directly behind your breast as this gives the most natural result. However, if you do not have enough breast skin and tissue to cover the implant, they may recommend placing the implant behind the pectoral muscle (see figure 1).

Your surgeon will usually place the implant through a cut on the crease under your breast (inframammary fold) and create a pocket to place the implant in.

What complications can happen?

1 General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Minor infection
  • Unsightly scarring
  • Blood clots

2 Specific complications

  • Developing a collection of blood or fluid in the pocket where the implant is
  • Infection of the implant
  • Kinking and rippling caused by a capsule forming or by natural sagging of your skin
  • Thickening and tightening of the scar tissue
  • Change of breast and nipple sensation
  • Stiff shoulder
  • Numbness or continued pain on the outer part of your breast
  • Rupture or deflation of the implant
  • Cosmetic problems

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day or the day after.

You should be able to return to normal activities after two to three weeks. You should be able to return to work after a week, depending on your type of work. You should be able to do a limited amount of activity, such as lifting young children, after about two weeks.

It usually takes a few weeks for your breasts to look and feel more natural. The results of a breast augmentation usually last for a long time.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Summary

A breast augmentation is an operation to make your breasts larger, and usually to improve their shape. It is suitable only for certain women. You should consider the options carefully and have realistic expectations about the results.

Acknowledgements

Author: Mr Eoin O'Broin MD FRCS (Plast.)

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved. www.nucleusinc.com

 

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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