Breast augmentation, also known as augmentation mammoplasty, is a surgical procedure designed to increase the size, or alter the shape or texture of a woman’s breasts. It is currently the most common cosmetic procedure in Canada.
Breast augmentation can be primarily reconstructive, as is the case following a mastectomy, which involves the removal of cancerous breast tissue, but many women also choose to undergo the procedure for primarily aesthetic reasons.
While the safety of breast augmentation has been controversial in past decades, it has evolved into a safe, effective, and immensely popular cosmetic surgery.
Most breast augmentations include the insertion of implants, filled with either a saline solution or a silicone gel, although some procedures use a fat transfer technique, which uses fat harvested from other areas of a woman’s body in place of implants.
Breast augmentation procedures can be traced back as far as the late 19th century, and various materials have historically been used for implants.
Types of Incisions
Breast augmentation usually involves one of three types of incisions:
- The fold underneath the breast (Inframammary)
- The border of the areola (Periareolar)
- The armpit (Transaxillary).
The implant is placed in a “pocket” created by your surgeon, either above the chest muscles (subglandular) or underneath them (submuscular).
Implants come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and breast augmentation is highly customizable. During your initial consultation, you and your surgeon will decide on the best type of incision, implant type, and implant placement in order to achieve your desired outcome. It is important to note that breast augmentation does not lift the breast, and does not address concerns of breast “sagging,” which may be corrected with a breast lift.
Breast augmentation is most commonly combined with a breast lift for a more comprehensive result, and a breast lift usually does not require any extra incisions. A number of other cosmetic procedures may also be performed simultaneously, including liposuction or rhinoplasty (nose job).
Patients are advised that breast augmentation is not a one-time procedure: breast implants are not designed to last a lifetime, and they may shift or deflate over time. You may need to get your implants replaced if complications arise or if the size or shape of your body changes. The likelihood that your implants will need to be replaced increases with time; the average implant lifespan is 10-15 years. Women with silicone implants should be monitored for signs of silent rupture, in which case your implants will need to be replaced. Price adjustments are usually offered for implant replacements and revisions.
Why Breast Augmentation?
Women choose breast augmentation for a number of reasons. Some women are unhappy with their genetic breast size, while some women find they have lost breast volume and elasticity following pregnancy and breastfeeding, or with age. Breast augmentation aims not only to increase breast size, but also to improve symmetry, shape, texture, fullness, projection, and overall proportion.
Many women also find that breast augmentation improves their self-perceived attractiveness and contributes to a boost in self-esteem. A 2012 study by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that 80% of women reported “significant improvement” in areas such as satisfaction with breasts, psychosocial well-being, and sexual well-being following breast augmentation procedures.
Breast Augmentation: What to Expect
The breast augmentation procedure typically takes between 1 and 2 hours and almost always involves the use of general anaesthesia. You may be given a surgical bra to wear in order to keep everything in place following your surgery. Follow-up visits will be scheduled in order to monitor recovery. Patients can usually be discharged the same day after a period in a recovery room to monitor for any complications, and it is advised that you arrange transportation, as driving will not be possible for a few days following surgery.
Patients normally return to sedentary work within a week following surgery, and physical contact can be resumed after 3-4 weeks, or once any lingering hypersensitivity has subsided. Exercise and any other strenuous activity should be avoided for about 4-6 weeks following your breast augmentation, and patients are encouraged to rest as much as possible in the weeks following surgery, in order to promote recovery.
It is important to have realistic expectations following your breast augmentation. Some pain, tenderness, and sensitivity can be expected for a few days following surgery, and is usually treated with prescription pain medication. Submuscular implants often result in more pain and require longer healing times because of the deep tissue incisions necessary.
Scarring is usually minimal and restricted to strategic areas where they will be barely visible. Scars typically heal within about 6 weeks and fade over time. Your implants may sit high on the chest and feel tight for a few months following surgery, but should gradually descend and settle into a more natural-looking final position.