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Breast enlargement is surgery to make the breasts bigger and improve their shape. This surgery may also be called breast augmentation or augmentation mammoplasty. During breast enlargement, the surgeon places an implant in the breast. An implant is a soft silicone shell filled with silicone gel or saline (salt water).
To position the implant, the surgeon makes a cut (incision) in the bottom crease of the breast, in the armpit, or along the lower edge of the areola. (The areola is the coloured area around the nipple). The surgeon carefully adjusts the implant to the correct shape and position. Then the incision is closed with stitches.
The implant may be placed under the breast tissue or under the chest muscle beneath the breast. Some doctors think that putting the implant under the chest muscle lowers the risk for a problem called capsular contracture (hardening of tissue around the implant). This placement may also interfere less with mammography.
A breast lift may be done at the same time as a breast enlargement. This surgery can raise sagging breasts as well as the nipple and areola. For a breast lift, the surgeon removes excess skin from the bottom of the breast and around the areola. The remaining skin is then brought together. This tightens and raises the breast.
A breast lift requires a larger incision than a breast enlargement alone. The incision may go from the areola to the crease below the breast.
Breast enlargements and lifts are usually done in a hospital or surgery centre. You will not need to stay overnight in the hospital unless problems occur during surgery. You will probably get medicine to make you sleep during the surgery (general anesthesia). Or you might be awake and get medicine that makes the area numb (local anesthesia or epidural).
Most women who get breast implants will need at least one more implant surgery in their lives. Implants don't last forever. They may need to be removed or replaced if they leak, rupture, change shape, or develop other problems.
Newer silicone implants have gel in them instead of liquid. These types of implants don't leak if they are punctured or cut. About 1 out of 100 saline implants ruptures each year.footnote 1
Also keep in mind that:
Provincial health plans will not cover the cost of breast implants unless the implants are being used as part of breast reconstruction after surgery for breast cancer.
Breast implants may cause problems during mammography.
During mammography, the breast has to be squeezed tightly to get accurate images. In rare cases, this causes a breast implant to leak or rupture.
Be sure to tell the person who schedules your mammogram that you have implants. The technician will need to know what type of implants you have (saline or silicone) and whether they are behind or in front of the chest muscle. The technician may need to take more views than during a typical screening. In some cases, MRI scans may be needed to get a clear image.
Health Canada reports that both saline- and silicone-filled breast implants appear to be safe.
Visit the Government of Canada's webpage on breast implants at www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-medical-devices/breast-implants.html for more information.
You will have gauze over the incisions. Your breasts will be wrapped in an elastic bandage or supported by a special bra. The stitches may be removed in 7 to 10 days.
You may have some swelling, bruising, and soreness in your breasts for several days after the surgery. Some women also have a burning feeling in their nipples right after surgery. Swelling and bruising may last for several weeks.
You will probably be able to return to most of your normal activities within a few days. You will need to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise until your doctor says it is safe.
You will have scars after breast enlargement surgery. But they are usually in areas that are not easily seen, such as the crease under the breast or the armpit. Scars usually fade after a few months. If you also have a breast lift, you will have larger scars that are easier to see.
This surgery is done to make the breasts bigger and to enhance their shape. You may decide to get breast implants:
Breast enlargement surgery can increase your breast size by one or more bra cup sizes. It can also help your breasts match better in size and shape.
Most women who get breast implants are satisfied with the results. You are likely to be happy with the results if you are realistic about what you expect from the surgery. The surgeon can show you pictures of other women who got implants. This can give you a good idea about what to expect.
Breast implants may make it harder for a mammogram to detect breast cancer.
Other risks include:
Less common risks include infection, blood under the skin (hematoma), and abnormal scarring.
The risk of problems after the surgery is higher if you have more than one surgery at the same time, such as a breast lift and breast enlargement.
Visit the Government of Canada's web page on breast implants at www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-medical-devices/breast-implants.html for more information.
CitationsVasconez HC, Habash A (2010). Plastic and reconstructive surgery. In GM Doherty, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Surgery, 13th ed., pp. 1092–1131. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of: April 1, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Keith A. Denkler MD - Plastic Surgery
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