What is a breast enlargement (augmentation)?
A breast enlargement is performed by inserting a breast implant
behind a woman's natural breast tissue. The inserted breast implant
pushes and projects the natural breast tissue forward, giving a
fuller and larger breast appearance. This procedure is performed on
women within a broad age range who wish to improve their breast
size and shape for the following reasons:
- A dissatisfaction with their original breast size
- A desire to regain or improve breast shape and size following
significant weight loss or child birth
- A wish to correct uneven breasts (asymmetry)
- Correction of a congenital deformity of one or both
Breast augmentation surgery can provide both physical and
psychological benefits who have undergone a procedure of this type
report that they feel more feminine and personally confident about
their new body image and can experience improved self esteem as a
result of having surgery.
How is this procedure performed?
Breast enlargement surgery is generally performed under general
anaesthetic. The procedure takes around one hour to perform and
patients may be able to go home the same day.
Breast augmentation surgery is performed by making a fine
incision in the crease-line beneath the breast itself (sub-mammary
route), or through the armpit (axillary), or around the underside
of the nipple area (periareolar). In the UK the sub-mammary
incision method is generally favoured, though any decision is made
on the basis of a patient’s personal preference, in conjunction
with the surgeon’s advice and judgement. The implant can be
positioned in one of two places within the breast cavity in order
to push the breast forward and to enlarge the original breast
The two potential sites are:
a) In front of the pectoral muscle. This route is typically
chosen when a patient has sufficient skin and breast tissue to give
good natural looking coverage over the breast implant.
b) Behind the great pectoral muscle. This route is typically
chosen when a patient has insufficient skin and breast tissue to
give a natural looking coverage over the breast implant. This
method is often favoured for very slim or particularly flat chested
What are the results like?
This procedure can provide excellent results in women wishing to
improve and increase their breast shape and size. This corrective
procedure should be performed in order to obtain the best
possible breast shape and size and should only be undertaken
by a Consultant Plastic Surgeon who is fully qualified and well
experienced in this type of specialist breast surgery. The final
result will be obscured by swelling, which nearly always develops
following this type of surgery.
It can take up to 14 days for initial swelling and bruising to
settle to an acceptable appearance, but residual swelling will
settle down gradually over several months. Typically the fine
incisions and subsequent scars that are made by performing this
procedure are well hidden in the natural breast crease, or arm pit,
or in the pigmented margin (areola) surrounding the nipple area.
Every surgeon's breast augmentation procedure technique can differ
slightly and wounds can be sutured (stitched) with either
dissolvable or removable fine line sutures, or by surgical glue.
Sutures are typically removed 10-14 days following surgery.
How will you feel after a breast augmentation?
Most women experience some discomfort following breast surgery
and take analgesic tablets (pain killers) for up to one week
following surgery. It is important to allow for a natural period of
healing to take place and for women who lead busy lives to abstain
from strenuous activity or from heavy lifting for six weeks
Initially, breasts will be firm and swollen and they will take
at least six weeks to soften to a more natural appearance and feel.
Breast swelling will settle down completely after several
Patients will always be advised to take a specific amount
of recovery time away from work, dependant on the type of work they
perform, but it is usual to take 10 to 14 days away from work to
rest and recover at home following this type of procedure.
Are there any risks involved having a breast augmentation?
All surgery involves an element of risk from developing
complications. However, cosmetic surgery is usually undertaken
voluntarily and only when a patient is in good health. Therefore,
the probability of experiencing complications from this kind of
surgery are substantially lower than those who undergo surgery due
to ill health.
General risks such as bleeding, infection and asymmetry and
scarring will be discussed openly at consultation, as well as our
scrupulous efforts to manage and minimise these risks to their
lowest possible potential. However there are also specific risks to
this procedure that need to be considered. These are:
Capsular contracture (hardening) - Modern
day implants have ensured that the risk of capsular contracture has
never been so low; however, capsular contracture is still the most
common complication experienced by women following breast
augmentation. Capsular contracture occurs when the human body puts
a wall of scar tissue (fibrous capsule) around an implant. This
scar tissue can then thicken and shrink and is noticed by the
patient as an apparent hardening of the breast implant. Where a
capsular contracture becomes noticeable or unsightly to the
patient, remedial surgery to correct this problem can be
Rupture rates and life expectancy of breast implants
- Recent advances in implant technology and
manufacture mean that breast implant ruptures are highly unlikely.
A true evaluation of the life expectancy of modern-day implants is
difficult to predict accurately, as new implants may have the
potential to last a lifetime, but they have not been in use for
long enough to produce proof to substantiate such a claim.
Consequently, the Department of Health asks manufacturers and
plastic surgeons to advise women that they may need to consider
renewing their implants after a ten-year period.
Scarring - Scars resulting from breast
augmentation surgery are typically fine and insignificant once the
healing process is complete. However, very occasionally a scar may
heal abnormally and become thick, raised and painful
(hypertrophic). This condition can be treated with a special
dressing or with anti-inflammatory injections or occasionally with
corrective surgery, although results cannot be guaranteed.
Infection and rejection - It is important that
all patients quickly recognise any signs of infection, such as
excessive pain, fever or offensive wound discharge. Antibiotics
given during your operation will help reduce this risk to a
minimum, as will meticulous attention to your personal hygiene. On
very rare occasions a patient’s body may be unable to cope with the
introduction of a foreign body (such as a breast implant) and a
resulting infection may lead to a total rejection of the new breast
Changes in breast sensation - It is
typical for most patients to notice an alteration in breast
sensation following surgery. These changes usually subside when the
breast has fully recovered from surgery. Occasionally, patients
report that their nipples or breast skin remain either more or less
sensitive in the long term following surgery.
Palpability - Women with very little
natural breast tissue should be advised that the rim of the breast
implant may be visible or detectable to touch (palpable). Your
surgeon may recommend placing an implant behind the pectoral muscle
to minimise this effect if he believes that the implant ridge would
Implants do not interfere with a woman’s ability to breast feed.
There is no known association between breast cancer and breast
Mammography - Women with breast implants
should inform any future radiographer that they have breast
implants, so that the most appropriate method of breast screening
and mammography can be performed.
Travelling at high altitudes - Breast implants
are not subject to strain, pressure or rupture when travelling in
an aircraft or at high altitudes.
Smoking - Heavy smokers may be precluded from
having breast implant surgery due to their increased risk of
infection and rejection complications.
At Vive we believe that it is important for all prospective
patients to have realistic expectations of the improvements that
can be achieved through breast augmentation surgery. Your
Consultant Plastic Surgeon will take into account your age, skin
texture, and the existing shape and position of your breast tissue
and nipples when predicting the outcome of your results. It is
therefore essential to have a thorough consultation with a surgeon
who specialises in breast surgery before you make a decision to go
ahead with a procedure.