Women can get breast implants to make their breasts bigger and fuller. That can be done for reconstructive purposes, such as after mastectomy for breast cancer, or for cosmetic reasons.
This article covers cosmetic breast augmentation only. It discusses the types of breast implants available, the procedures used, and possible complications.
Saline and Silicone Breast Implants
There are two types of breast implants: saline and silicone.
Saline-filled implants are silicone shells filled with sterile salt water (saline). Silicone-filled implants are silicone shells filled with a plastic gel (silicone). Although many women say that silicone implants feel more like real breasts than saline, they pose more of a risk if they leak.
In 1992, the FDA halted the sale of silicone implants because of safety concerns. In 2006, after reviewing more research, the FDA started allowing certain silicone breast implants back on the market.
How the Breast Implant Procedure Is Done
Because breasts can continue to develop until a woman reaches her late teens or early 20s, the FDA requires that women be at least 18 years old to get breast augmentation with saline-filled implants and at least 22 years old to receive silicone implants.
When picking your surgeon, look for one who has a lot of experience. You may be less likely to have complications later on if you choose a surgeon who has had at least five years of surgical training and at least two years’ experience in plastic surgery.
Before your breast implant procedure, you will meet with your surgeon for a medical evaluation. You can talk about what you want and get feedback from the doctor. Your surgeon may ask you to stop taking certain medications a few days or weeks before your surgery.
You can get breast augmentation done as an outpatient procedure, or you may stay overnight in the hospital.
The procedure takes one to two hours. You will likely be given general anesthesia, during which you will be “asleep” and pain-free.
The surgeon will make a cut under your breasts, under your arms, or around your nipples, depending on your body, the type of implant, and how much enlargement is being done.
The surgeon will put the breast implant into a pocket above or below your chest muscle. After the implant is in place, the surgeon will close the cuts with sutures or surgical tape.
Recovery After Breast Implantation
Your breasts will be covered with gauze after the surgery. You may have drainage tubes, which will be removed in a few days. You may need to wear a surgical bra as you heal.
You’ll need to take it easy for a few days after your breast augmentation surgery. For instance, you shouldn’t do any heavy lifting for up to six weeks after getting your implants.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen may help relieve discomfort. Your doctor may also prescribe pain medication for you.
You will probably have some swelling in the area where the surgery was done. Over time, the swelling should ease and the scars will fade.