Breast Augmentation

Breast Augmentation, also known as augmentation mammoplasty, is a procedure that surgically enhances breast sizes using breast implants. Breast augmentation is one of the most surgically performed cosmetic surgeries today, and has grown tremendously over the last decade. Breasts are enlarged through either silicone-gel or saline implants, depending on choice of surgeon, costs, and desired results. There are roughly four incision alternatives.

Often times, breast augmentation needs correction when dissatisfied with results, so, it is wise to choose a surgeon with a good reputation, credentials, reviews, and one you are comfortable with.

Types of Breast Implants

There are two types of breast implants: saline and silicone.

Saline-filled implants are silicone shells filled with sterile salt water (saline). Silicone-filled implants are silicone shells filled with a plastic gel (silicone). Although many women say that silicone implants feel more like real breasts than saline, they pose more of a risk if they leak.

In 1992, the FDA halted the sale of silicone implants because of safety concerns. But in 2006, after reviewing additional research, the FDA allowed two manufacturers - Mentor and Allergan - to sell silicone implants.

How much breast implants cost depends on the location, doctor, and type of implant used. Typically, the surgery will range from $5,000 to $10,000. Because it is considered a cosmetic procedure, breast augmentation is usually not covered by medical insurance.

How The Breast Implant Procedure is Performed

Because the breasts can continue to develop until a woman reaches her late teens or early 20s, the FDA requires that women be at least 18 years old to get breast augmentation with saline-filled implants, and at least 22 years old to receive silicone implants.

Before your breast implant procedure, you will meet with your surgeon for a medical evaluation. You may be asked to stop taking certain medications a few days or weeks before your surgery. Breast augmentation can be performed as an outpatient procedure, or you may stay overnight in the hospital.

You will likely be given general anesthesia, in which you are asleep and pain free. The incision may be made under the breast, under the arm, or around the nipple, depending on your body, the type of implant, and how much enlargement is being done.

The breast implant is inserted into a pocket either above or below the chest muscle. After the implant is in place, the surgeon closes the incisions with sutures or surgical tape. The entire procedure takes between one and two hours.

Recovery After Breast Implantation

Your breasts will be covered with gauze after the surgery. There may be drainage tubes, which will have to be removed in a few days. You may need to wear a surgical bra as you heal.

You'll need to take it easy for a few days after your breast augmentation surgery and avoid excess activity and heavy lifting for up to six weeks. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol may help relieve discomfort. Your doctor may also prescribe pain medication for you.

There will probably be some swelling in the area where the surgery was done. It should subside over time and the scars will slowly fade.

Possible Complications of Breast Augmentation

Although it is a cosmetic procedure, breast implant surgery can have risks, such as:

  • Breast pain
  • Changes in sensation in the nipple and breast
  • Formation of scar tissue and hardening in the area around the implant (capsular contracture)
  • Scarring
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Problems with the size or shape of the implants (for example, the breasts may not be symmetrical)

It is also possible for implants to rupture and leak. If saline implants rupture, the saline will be safely absorbed by the body. A silicone leak may stay inside the implant shell or leak outside of the shell. You will be aware when a saline implant ruptures because it will deflate, but silicone breast implants may cause no obvious symptoms when they rupture. This is called silent rupture.

Women who have silicone gel-filled implants will need to get an MRI scan three years after the implant surgery and then MRI scans about every two years to check for silent rupture. If your implants rupture, you will need to have them removed or replaced.

You can reduce your risk of complications by choosing a surgeon who has had at least five years of surgical training, and a minimum of two years experience in plastic surgery.

Having breast implants can make it more difficult to get screened with a mammogram, but special X-ray views can be done to better examine the area. However, research indicates breast implants do not increase your risk of breast cancer. Breast implants may make it harder for you to breast feed.

Breast implants are not designed to last a lifetime. You may need to have the implants replaced if there are complications, or if the size and shape of your breasts change over time.

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