What is breast augmentation?
A breast implant is prosthetic device, which is placed inside the breast to increase the size or change the shape. The surgeon reconstructs the breast using this prosthesis to regain the original form or a new shape of the breasts.
Breast augmentation is also known as mammoplasty and a surgical procedure that increases the size and shape of the breast in women. Primarily there are four types of breast augmentation namely:
- Enlarge the size of small breasts for cosmetic reasons
- Restore the shape and size of breast after pregnancy or breast-feeding
- Achieve a symmetrical size when breasts are of unequal size
- Restore breast size after breast cancer/breast removal (mastectomy)
- Saggy breast treatment
Women who undergo breast augmentation not only improve their self-esteem but also get a better figure and feel more confident.
Who is suitable for breast augmentation?
Women who wish to enlarge their breast size can opt for breast augmentation. Not every woman may be an ideal candidate to undergo this procedure since there is some amount of health and safety issue involved, according to plastic surgeons. The main concern for any doctor would be the recovery period and procedure after a surgery. Bleeding and infections are common worries though recoverable. For example, women who have diabetes and cannot heal well should not opt for surgical procedures like breast augmentation. In any case, the doctor will take a complete health evaluation before finalizing the surgery.
The best candidates for a breast augmentation surgery are women who have:
- Small breasts
- Loose and saggy breasts
- Breast reconstruction after mastectomy
- Women who want to enlarge the size of their breasts
However, some pre-conditions have to be met for a breast augmentation procedure. A woman who wishes to undergo this procedure must be physically fit and should not have a pre-existing condition like breast cancer for example. Women who wish to undergo a breast reconstruction procedure after a mastectomy should be completely cured of cancer to be suitable for this procedure.
For teenagers and kids under 20 usually the surgery is not suggested and even if it is, the surgery is performed only after puberty. The body of a younger person goes through several changes even after they reach puberty until they have children.
Women also need to have realistic expectations out of the surgery. The plastic surgeon would ideally suggest a size and shape that is best suited for an individual’s physique. If you have certain expectations as a prospective case of breast augmentation procedure, then it should be discussed in detail with the surgeon. Typically, the breast augmentation procedure would increase a couple of sizes for the breast cup.
What is the breast augmentation process
A breast augmentation process is a surgical procedure that requires the patient to be partially conscious or unconscious. The person would be given local or general anesthesia before the surgery. During the surgery, the doctor makes an incision under the cup near the ribs. It will be a small incision, which is used to insert the prosthesis and readjust the breast. There are three approaches to make the incision.
- Infra-mammary incision is a small cut that is created under the breast.
- Transaxillary incision recovery is cut in the armpit
- Periareolar incision is a cut around the nipple
The choice of the type of incision depends on several factors like the size of the implant, person’s physique and the type of implant that is being used. During the procedure, the breast implant is put inside a pocket and then inserted into the breast. There are two basic types of placements.
- A sub-muscular placement is done right under the pectoral muscle. This type of procedure may take a longer period of recovery compared to the second type of placement procedure. In addition, it causes more pain for the person who has undergone this procedure.
- A sub-mammary placement also known as sub-glandular placement is done right behind the tissue, which is located over the pectoral muscle.
A surgeon uses different techniques of placement while performing the surgery. Some of the decisions about the placement of implant are taken while the surgery is in progress. This is because the circumstances may change while the surgery is under progress.
How long does it take for complete recovery
Breast augmentation is quite an extensive type of surgery and the recovery period can take a few weeks. The first thing a person experiences once the anesthetic wears off is pain in the area of the surgery. To handle the pain, the doctor immediately prescribes painkillers. Even though the surgery takes a couple of hours it is advised that somebody should accompany the patient back home post-operation. It is not recommended that the patient should drive back after the procedure even if the anesthesia wears off.
The suggested recovery period for a breast augmentation procedure is typically six weeks. During this period, women should not be involved in strenuous activities. Even exercises are not recommended. The doctor will suggest some post-operative exercises like flexing and moving the arms to relieve the pain from the surgical area. Discomfort will be there for a couple of days after the surgery where the patient may experience stinging pain, stiffness/tenderness and soreness.
Women who expect to go through this surgery should be prepared to take off from work for at least a period of 2 weeks. She may not be able to wear a bra initially after the surgery and at least until the sutures have come off. Surgical bandages are removed after a couple of days during the follow up usually. However, stitches take at least 6 weeks to disappear. In addition, one should start bathing only after the surgical bandages come off.
Complete recovery is a gradual process after the surgery and will take close to two months before everything is normalized. A person who takes good post-operative care in terms of hygiene, diet and rest will recover faster. It is imperative that the patient follows exercises and massage techniques suggested by the doctor to speed up the recovery process.
What about aftercare
Post-operative care is very important after a breast augmentation surgery. Once the surgery is over and when you gain conscious the doctor will speak to you at length about the post-operative care that you need to follow. Some of them are:
- Make sure you have an attendant for at least 48 hours after the surgery.
- Start using the surgical brassiere recommended by the doctor and do not wear anything else other than the recommended one.
- Drink plenty of water during the recovery period.
- Never take pain medications on an empty stomach. Since you will be taking, these medications frequently have smaller meals more often.
- You will need to sleep on your back until the pain subsides
- Do not take any other medications that are available off the shelf unless your surgeon recommends it.
- Avoid alcohol for a period for one week after the surgery.
- Smoking may not be allowed for at least 3 weeks after the surgery.
- Wear loose clothes as much as possible
- Guard against infections and injuries in the breast area. Wash your hands before you touch the breasts and make sure the clothes that you wear are washed and clean. Even after the stitches come off you will still be prone to infections.
- Follow the doctor’s instructions on when to start bathing and wearing regular bras. This is very important for the recovery from the breast augmentation surgery.
Is breast-feed possible after breast augmentation
There are several potential problems for breast-feeding after a breast augmentation procedure. Soon after the surgery, the nipples tend to be sore and sensitive. Usually women experience engorgement of the breasts after delivering the baby, because the body starts producing milk. Some women undergo mastitis, pain, chills and even fever after delivery. Depending on these circumstances, the doctor will suggest if a woman can breast feed or not.
However, the main factor depends on the kind of surgery you have undergone. Many procedures and technique actually allow women to breast-feed post surgery. Incisions that are under the breast or armpit do not interfere with the breast-feeding process. However if the incision is made around the nipples breast-feeding is not possible until the stitches are removed. In addition, the nipples may become prone to infection on breast-feeding in such a case.
There are some possible solutions of feeding your baby after a surgery. It is not possible for a woman to know if the milk supply has been affected due to the augmentation surgery unless she feeds her baby. If you are able to have sensations around the nipple area, it is possible that you will still be getting a full milk supply. Speak to your baby’s doctor about substituting breast milk with formula after the surgery. The doctor will keep a close watch on the baby’s weight gain.
Another solution is to extract breast milk using a breast pump and feed your baby. This keeps the milk coming in and your baby will get the nutrition required.
What is the difference between saline fill vs. silicone gel fill?
Breast implants come in different types like saline fills and silicone fills. In all probability, the choice of implants is not up to you, but the surgeon will take a call on this. Saline and silicone implants have an outer silicone shell and are different by the type of filling the shell uses.
Saline breast implants are filled with saline/salt water. The water is first drained out of the silicone pocket and refilled once they have been inserted inside the breast. Saline breast implants are usually recommended for women who are above 20 years of age and is vastly used for breast reconstruction.
Silicone breast implants are pockets that are filled with silicone gel. Silicone gel is an opaque liquid that is thick in consistency and sticky to feel. It resembles or mimics human fat. Silicone breast implants are suggested for older women and women above 22 years. Many women feel that silicone breast implants look and feel more realistic and natural. The breasts form a natural shape compared to the saline breast implant.
There is also a price difference in the both these implants. Silicone gel implants are more expensive and tend to last longer than the saline implants.
How long does implant last
Women who undergo breast augmentation procedure should understand that breast implants are not built to last for a lifetime. In order to maintain the same size and shape of the breasts during the lifetime you will need to go through additional surgical procedures similar to the one you had. Typically, breast implants last for a period of 10 years from the time of surgery. Also there is an ongoing debate about which type of implant lasts longer – saline or silicone. No matter what type the implant is they last for 10 to 12 years and have to be replaced within this time.
There are other circumstances, which can cause depletion of the implants after the surgery. Some of the possible complications include rupture of the implants, leakage and hardening of the shell. For example, saline implant is biocompatible but is more prone to leaks because of the water content. Even if there is a leak, it will not harm you physically and the water will be passed out of your body. However, the breast will decrease in size rapidly. In such cases, the implant needs to be replaced immediately.
Please tell about swelling after operation
Like any other surgery, after a breast augmentation procedure it is normal to undergo pain and swelling. These are some side effects of the surgery and last temporarily. After post operative care the symptoms reduce gradually and the person will start feeling normal again. After a breast augmentation procedure, it is normal to have a swelling that can increase the breast size by 10%. The skin on the breast tends to appear shiny and there will be some discomfort when it is swollen. That is why post-operative care is very important after a breast augmentation surgery.
The swelling usually subsides after 7 to 10 days from the day of the surgery. For some women it may even take 4 months to completely subside. If you are experiencing pain in the swollen area, try applying ice packs 4 to 5 times in a day for 15 minutes. Sleep in an elevated position to ease out the pain. The swelling is caused due to water retention after the surgery. It is not recommended that a person uses herbal/medical diuretics to get rid of the water retention. Instead, you can drink a lot of water because water is a natural diuretic.
Can I do physical activities after operation
It is not recommended that you immediately start exercising or involve in extensive physical activities soon after the surgery. You should allow the body to rest for at least 2 weeks before you start your physical regime again. After the surgery, you will be wearing a surgical bra to support the structure of the augmented breasts. Once the bandages and stitches have been removed, you can start doing some mild exercises mainly to manage pain and keep the arms and chest areas active. This should be considered like a physiotherapy exercise and not something to manage weight. It is unlikely for a person to put on weight following the weeks of surgery. However if staying fit is your concern you can do it by eating healthy diet and drinking plenty of water.