The medical term for a breast augmentation is augmentation mammaplexy. This is the most common cosmetic surgery procedure, with over 290,000 procedures performed in 2013. While the procedure is most common among women in their 30s, it’s also very common in younger and older age groups. Women may choose breast augmentation because their natural breasts are smaller than they’d like, or because they’ve lost breast volume due to pregnancy, weight loss, or mastectomy. Breast augmentation can use implants, or transfer of fat from other areas of the body, to increase the size or projection of the breasts. This page is about breast implants; information on the fat transfer method is here.
If you’re choosing breast augmentation surgery, make sure you’re choosing it because you really want it, not to please someone else or to fit an imagined ideal. No one else can make the choice for you; it’s your body, and you’re in charge of it. After you do your research and understand the procedure, if you believe that breast augmentation is right for you, then proceed. To help you in your decision-making process, we have some information about the risks and benefits of having a breast augmentation with implants at Breast Augmentation (with Implants): Risks and Benefits.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential elective surgery with your own doctor(s), including your primary care physician and the surgeon who will perform your surgery if you decide to proceed.
What to expect
How it’s done
A breast augmentation surgery is done under general anesthesia. After the anesthesia, the chest area is thoroughly cleaned with a liquid solution which may temporarily stain the skin yellow. The incisions are made according to the patient’s previous choice (around the nipples, under the breast in the crease, or in the armpits). After this, the implants are placed. They can be silicone or saline, and come in different sizes, also according to the choice the patient made before surgery. Additionally, the patient has chosen the location for the placement. The surgeon raises the operating table and checks the positioning of the implants, adjusting slightly as necessary. Sometimes, a larger or smaller implant may be substituted, to achieve the size the patient previously selected. When the surgeon determines that the optimal look has been achieved, the incisions are carefully sewn closed with several layers of sutures. The outer layer may be fine suture, skin adhesive, or medical tape.
Preparing for the procedure
Choosing your surgeon
When choosing a surgeon, you want a highly-trained professional with experience in this type of surgery. A member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has received at least six years of surgical training after medical school, with three of those specifically in plastic surgery. Look for the designation “ASPS” after the surgeon’s name. Also, choose a surgeon with whom you feel comfortable and safe, and who listens to you and tries to understand your goals. If you have friends who’ve had cosmetic surgery, and you like their results, ask for a referral. While cost may be a consideration, don’t allow this to override more important factors in your decision. Your safety and the quality of your results are worth a little extra spending.
For more help in your search for a plastic surgeon, visit our How to Find the Best Plastic Surgeon page. At Doctor Review, you can also search providers for patient reviews to help you find the very best.
Getting ready for surgery
You will have one or two appointments with your surgeon before the surgery. The first is a consultation, during which you meet your surgeon and discuss your surgical options. If you choose to proceed with this particular surgeon, you’ll have a chance to try on bras that simulate different sizes of breast implants, either at the same appointment or at another one. This helps you choose the size of implants you want.
There are several different types of breast implants, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. See Choosing Your Implants for more information.
The day before your surgery, you should eat and drink enough healthy food and water, and get enough sleep the night before. You will need to stop eating 8 to 12 hours before your surgery. If you smoke, you should stop for at least 24 hours before the surgery. If you take daily medications to prevent blood clots, such as aspirin, you will likely be asked to stop those for 24 to 48 hours before the surgery (proceed as directed by your doctor, and don’t stop any medication without talking to your doctor first).
You will stay at the surgical center in the recovery room for several hours following surgery, for the anesthesia to wear off. You should then plan to spend 24 to 48 hours recovering at home with minimal activity, and your activity will be reduced (no strenuous exercise or lifting heavy objects) for about a week or two following surgery. You may have a thin tube called a drain placed under your skin, to prevent excess fluid from collecting and delaying your healing. You can resume your normal activity at the direction of your surgeon, who will see you for at least one postoperative visit several days after surgery. If sutures were used to close the skin, they’ll likely be removed at this appointment. If drains were placed, they will also likely be removed by your surgeon at this visit, unless there’s a need for them to stay in longer.
Make sure you take it easy during your recovery! Too much activity could delay your healing and may lead to your scars or implants not looking ideal. It’s also very important to take care of your incisions, keeping them clean and watching for signs of infection, and to wear your support bra to minimize swelling and allow healing. Even after you’re cleared to resume normal activity, you should expect to have some soreness and swelling for around 4-6 weeks after surgery. It may take a year or even longer for the incision lines to fully fade, though they will eventually become nearly invisible in most women.