If you have often wished your breasts were larger, fuller or shapelier, breast augmentation may be the right solution for you. Breast augmentation (also called augmentation mammaplasty) is a cosmetic procedure that uses implants to enlarge and shape the breasts. Your new look will broaden your fashion options and give your self-esteem an added boost.

Is breast augmentation right for you?

Any of the following feelings or conditions may indicate that you are a good candidate for breast augmentation:

  • You are bothered by the feeling that your breasts are too small.
  • Weight loss has changed the size and shape of your breasts.
  • After having children, your breasts have become smaller and have lost their firmness.
  • Dresses that fit well around your hips are often too large at the bust.
  • One of your breasts is noticeably smaller than the other.
  • You feel self-conscious wearing a swimsuit or form-fitting top.

In addition there are several considerations regarding breast augmentation:

  • If you are a young woman, your breast development must be complete.
  • You much be emotionally mature and fully understand your own motivations for wanting  the procedure (the best reason is to improve your confidence).
  • You must have realistic expectations, understanding that the procedure can bring improvement, but not perfection.

What should I expect from the consultation?

The consultation is the first step for any patient considering breast augmentation. This personalized one-on-one meeting allows your surgeon to assess your physical and emotional health and discuss your specific goals for surgery. You should be able to discuss in detail your medical history, any previous surgical procedures you've undergone, medications you are currently taking, even herbal remedies or nutritional supplements, mammogram results, and if your family has any history of breast cancer.

Part of the consultation will include a breast examination and a photograph may even be taken for your medical file. Your surgeon will evaluate the size and shape of your breasts, the quality of your skin and the placement of your nipples and areolas (the pigmented skin surrounding the nipples). Your surgeon may recommend a baseline mammogram to detect any future changes in your breast tissue. After surgery, your mammograms will be conducted differently because special imaging techniques must be used to visualize the breast tissue.

Your surgeon may have other suggestions for procedures to improve your results. For example, if your breasts are sagging, a breast lift procedure may be performed in conjunction with breast augmentation.

How is breast augmentation performed?

A small incision is made usually in one of three places depending on your surgeon's preference or based on your desired results. It's either made underneath the breast just above the crease, around the lower edge of the areola, or within the armpit. Once the incision has been made, the surgeon creates a pocket into which the implant is inserted. This pocket is made either directly behind the breast tissue or beneath the pectoral muscle located below the breast tissue and above the chest wall.

How will I learn about the safety of breast implants?

The majority of breast implants done today are saline-filled implants - silicone rubber shells that are filled with sterile saltwater. In the unlikely event that a saline implant leaks, the body will absorb the saltwater without any harm. Silicone gel or alternative filler implants may become available in the future. Your surgeon can fill you in on the latest research and technology.

Every year thousands of women experience the benefits of breast augmentation with no major resulting complications. However it is extremely important to be aware of the potential risks as well as the benefits that are involved with the procedure. This is perhaps the most important discussion in your consultation visit. Be sure to listen carefully as well as ask any questions you may have regarding the safety of the procedure. You can do your part to minimize potential risks by carefully adhering to your surgeon's advice and instruction before and after surgery.

What can I do to prepare for my surgery?

Once your surgery date has been established your surgeon will provide specific instructions to prepare for both before and after surgery. Probable preparations may include:

  • Avoiding certain medications that may complicate procedures.
  • No smoking for a period of time before and after surgery.
  • Arranging for special care post-surgery.

How will I be cared for on the day of my surgery?

Breast augmentation may be performed in a hospital, an outpatient surgery center or an office-based surgical suite. If you are admitted to the hospital or surgical facility, your stay will be a short one, perhaps just one night.

In some cases, local anesthesia with intravenous sedation is used. In others, general anesthesia may be the best option. Either way, you'll remain very comfortable throughout the procedure. After the surgery you'll wear a support bra, gauze wrappings or other dressings. You'll be taken to a recovery area where you'll be closely monitored.

How will I look and feel right after surgery?

Within a day or two after your surgery, you should be up and about.   Any discomfort you may experience can be controlled with prescribed medication by your plastic surgeon. Although everyone heals at a different rate, you can expect that your recovery will follow this general time line...

Within one week:
- You may shower.
- Stitches will be removed (unless dissolving sutures were used).
- You may feel ready to return to nonstrenuous work.
- You can resume sexual relations, ensuring the breasts are treated gently.

After several weeks:
- Most of the swelling will subside and you'll start to see your final results.
- You may discontinue wearing the support bra.
- You may resume vigorous exercise and arm movements.

What should I know about my results?

Like most women who have had breast augmentation, you'll be very pleased with the results. You can get rid of your padded bras or other bust-enlarging undergarments. Your new, natural curves will let you wear a greater variety of fashions, even dresses with low necklines and form-fitting tops. Many women feel their self-confidence lifted by their new figure, whether they're on the beach or in the boardroom.

It's likely that you will be happy with your results for many years. However, keep in mind that your breasts are not immune to the effects of weight fluctuations or aging.

How long will I continue to see my plastic surgeon?

After the initial healing period, you will return to your plastic surgeon for a follow-up visit to evaluate your progress. Your surgeon may ask you to return for periodic check-ups in the following months if necessary. It's important to keep these appointments so that your surgeon can assess your long-term results and address any questions or concerns you may have.