Breast implant surgery can be a transformative experience.
Also known as breast augmentation, the surgery is designed to increase the size or alter the shape of the breasts. Women may schedule the surgery to build confidence, address uneven breasts, or elevate their appearance (based on what they consider most aesthetically-pleasing).
Ultimately, breast implant surgery is a personal decision from which many women benefit. This article will outline what breast implant surgery entails, what it could bring to your life, and the risks involved in completing the surgery.
Breast Implant Surgery: An Overview
Saline and silicone implants are most common in breast augmentation surgery. But first, let’s examine what exactly the surgery involves.
It’s important to note that breast augmentation can be completed in a designated medical center or clinic, or at a hospital with an outpatient facility. The procedure rarely involves an overnight hospital stay, so you will almost certainly go home in the hours after your surgery.
What does the actual surgery look like? In some cases, breast implant surgery is completed during local anesthesia—in which case the breast area is numbed. Most of the time, however, the surgery is performed during general anesthesia, where you are actually asleep for the surgery. In either case, your surgeon will inform you of the different anesthesia options available, and help you make the best decision for your unique case.
To begin the procedure, your plastic surgeon will start by making an incision in one of the three following places:
- Around the nipple (a periareolar incision)
- Below the breast (an inframammary incision)
- Under the arm (an axillary incision)
They will then separate the breast tissue from the chest muscles and connective tissue. The result is a pocket adjacent to the pectoral muscles into which the surgeon will insert the implant. While saline implants are inserted empty and later filled with sterile salt water, silicone implants are inserted already filled with silicone gel.
After the implant is centered behind the nipple, the surgeon will repeat the process on the other side. They will then close the incision using stitches, bandaging the area using skin adhesive and surgical tape.
What happens following surgery? The surgeon will provide instructions on follow-up care, and you can begin to heal at home. Soreness, swelling, or light bruising may occur for a few weeks after the procedure. Scars from the incisions will begin to fade over time, and pain medication is available if needed.
From there, you can enjoy all the wonderful benefits of breast augmentation. Be sure to keep in mind that during the healing process, the breasts will be sensitive to the touch and to any abrupt movements. You’ll want to avoid strenuous activities for at least two weeks as well.
The Evolution of Breast Augmentation
In prehistoric times, the earliest written works associated large breasts with fertility and attractiveness. In the Bible’s Song of Solomon, ideal breasts are described as full and symmetrical; later, writers from Islamic poets to English literary pioneers like William Shakespeare alluded to the appeal of voluptuous breasts.
Breast augmentation itself, however, dates back approximately 125 years.
The procedure first took place in 1895, when Austrian-German surgeon Vincenz Czerny—dubbed the “father of plastic surgery”—performed the surgery on a woman at the University of Heidelberg. After World War II, Japanese prostitutes reportedly began injecting industrial silicone directly into their breasts; in 1962, the official silicone breast implant was invented in the United States.
To ensure safety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began to regulate silicone breast implants in 1976, with the goal of making sure all surgeries meet performance standards. Then, between 1991 and 2000, the following occurred:
- The now-defunct Poly Implant Prosthese (PIP) launched near Toulon, France in 1991, developing silicone gel breast implants for worldwide distribution.
- In 1992, the FDA called for a brief moratorium on the surgical use of silicone breast implants. Germany, Spain, Austria, Italy, and France followed suit.
- Saline implants were not affected during this time. France lifted its ban on silicone implants in 2000.
Today it is estimated that approximately 400,000 breast implant surgeries take place each year.
Risks and Complications to Consider
Breast implants do not feature a lifetime guarantee. Complications may arise, in which case corrective surgery might be necessary. It’s worth noting that approximately 20% of women who undergo breast augmentation surgery have their implants removed in eight to 10 years.
While most breast implant surgeries are successful, it’s still important to be aware of the potential risks involved. Early signs of complications include redness of the skin surrounding the breasts, swelling that does not go down after a few days, or a burning sensation.
Additional side effects may include:
- Breast or chest pain
- Changes in breast or nipple sensation
- Scar tissue that alters the shape of the implant
- Implant leakage or rupture
You will want to contact your plastic surgeon as soon as possible if you experience these symptoms. Addressing them may require more surgery, and potentially the removal or the replacement of the implants.
Before moving forward with breast implant surgery, women must also evaluate whether they want children in the future (and whether they’d like to breast-feed them). This is because breast implants, in some cases, may interfere with the milk-producing glands in the body.
The Benefits of Breast Implant Surgery
Despite the above complications, the benefits of breast implant surgery can be truly expansive. From a self-esteem boost, to better symmetry and increased fullness, the procedure is designed to make women feel more confident.
Of course, it’s important to keep your expectations realistic. But generally, breast implant surgery will:
Enhance women’s self-esteem.
While all bodies are beautiful, many people struggle with body image. Some women are dissatisfied with the natural appearance of their breasts, and they may want to change their size, shape, or symmetry. Breast implant surgery will allow them to do exactly that, helping these women boost their self-esteem.
Restore breast shape after pregnancy, weight loss, or aging.
The breasts naturally evolve following pregnancy, major weight loss, or simply over time. Breast implant surgery can help women address sagging, loss of volume, and more. A simple procedure will make the breasts appear more youthful, more symmetrical, and fuller—culminating in a stunning shape.
Rebuild the breasts after a mastectomy.
Breast cancer is both a physical illness and a deeply emotional experience for many women. And while mastectomies are often life-saving, they can have devastating effects on patients’ self-worth. Post-mastectomy breast implant surgery—using silicone or saline implants—can be restorative for survivors.
Add volume to naturally-beautiful breasts.
Some women are born with smaller, flatter breasts. Those who would prefer to fill out a bikini top or add curves to their physique may choose to undergo breast implant surgery. Even if they don’t want to make significant changes to their chest size, implants can add substantial volume to the top of the breasts.
Millions of women also appreciate how long breast implant surgery lasts. Implants do need to be replaced over time, but the majority of those who undergo the procedure claim the surgery is well worth the investment.
Are you considering breast implant surgery? Before scheduling the procedure, talk to a plastic surgeon to discuss your objectives. An expert practitioner will help you understand the surgery, all while guiding you through the potential side effects and necessary follow-up care.