What Is Breast Augmentation Surgery?

Breast augmentation is a cosmetic surgery procedure to increase breast size and enhance breast shape, typically through the placement of silicone or saline breast implants. From a cosmetic surgeon’s perspective, the ultimate goal of breast augmentation is to enhance a patient’s natural proportions and create a more symmetrical, aesthetically pleasing breast profile. The exact procedure is tailored to meet a woman’s individual needs.

There is no “typical” breast augmentation patient, and women choose to have the procedure for many different reasons—having larger breasts is just one of them. Breast augmentation is one of the most effective procedures to correct noticeable breast asymmetry, and breast implants can be used to help correct tuberous breast deformities. Other common goals of breast augmentation:

  • Restoring breast fullness lost after pregnancy & breastfeeding
  • Feeling more confident in a swimsuit
  • Adding balance to better complement curvy hips
  • Enhancing self-image

How To Choose A Qualified Cosmetic Surgeon

If you’re considering breast augmentation, the most important decision you’ll make is who will perform your procedure. When you visit a cosmetic surgeon, ask how many breast augmentations he or she has performed, and be sure to look at plenty of before and after photos during your consultation—this will help you get a feel for a cosmetic surgeon’s aesthetic style.

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Make sure your cosmetic surgeon is board certified; this ensures that he or she is specifically trained and experienced in cosmetic surgery, including breast augmentation, and that your procedure will take place in an accredited facility, which is essential for your safety. Finally, don’t choose a breast augmentation surgeon based on price. You cannot put a price on your safety & results. Most cosmetic surgeons offer multiple financing options to help a patient fit breast augmentation into her budget.

Breast Implant Choices

There’s never been a better time to have breast augmentation, as today you have more choices than ever to help you customize your new look. Whether you’d like more dramatic curves or a modest boost in cleavage, there’s an option for you. Here are some choices you can expect to go over during your consultation process:

  • Filling type: Saline, Silicone Gel, or Highly Cohesive Silicone “Gummy Bear” Implants. Neither is “best,” but there are some differences in cost, feel, and incision requirements that you need to consider. Your cosmetic surgeon will help you find the right implant type for you.
  • Shape: Saline & Silicone Gel implants are typically round, while gummy bear implants come in shaped and round options. Round implants will typically achieve a fuller upper pole (the top portion of your breast), while shaped implants lend a gently sloping look to your breast profile. Both can look very natural with a skilled cosmetic surgeon’s help.
  • Profile: Your cosmetic surgeon will help you choose this based on your existing proportions and your goals. Generally, patients with a more petite frame will require a higher profile implant to achieve the desired size increase while ensuring the implants are not too wide at the base.
  • Size: Breast implants range in size from about 150cc to 800cc or larger. Many patients require a different sized breast implant for each breast; this helps to achieve the best possible symmetry. The size you choose depends on your existing breast size, your personal goals, and your cosmetic surgeon’s recommendations.

Of course, all of these options make it even more important to choose a cosmetic surgeon who is well-qualified and has experience using a variety of breast implants.

Incision Options for Breast Augmentation

One common question that patients have before breast augmentation is, “What will my scars look like?” You’ll be glad to learn that an experienced, qualified cosmetic surgeon will use a surgical technique that places breast augmentation incisions so the resulting scars are easily hidden and inconspicuous, even to the patient herself. Depending on your anatomy and your desired outcome, your cosmetic surgeon will use one of the following incision techniques to place your breast implants:

  • Inframammary. This involves a short incision made in the crease underneath the breast, called the inframammary fold. This leaves a thin, 1 to 2 inch scar that is easily concealed within the crease. Advantages of this incision type include a wider access point, allowing a cosmetic surgeon to place larger silicone implants or gummy bear implants with precision.
  • Peri-areolar. The incision is made around the outer edge of the areola, so the resulting scar is located within this natural transition in pigmentation. Cosmetic surgeons will often use this incision type if they are also performing a mild to moderate breast lift at the same time.
  • Trans-axillary. This involves a small incision made within the armpit, through which your cosmetic surgeon will place the breast implant using a specialized camera and instruments to ensure optimal placement. This leaves a small scar within the armpit but achieves a breast augmentation with no scar on the breast itself.
  • Transumbilical. This technique involves an incision just above the belly button. Each breast implant is inserted through this incision and then brought up to the breast. Advantages of the transumbilical technique include a single scar with no scarrring on the breast itself.

Life After Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation is an outpatient procedure, typically performed using general anesthesia. You can expect to walk around on your own a few hours after surgery, and most patients feel up to leaving the house within the next day or two.

You may feel sore the first week or so, and you will need to limit strenuous exercise for about 2-4 weeks. Your cosmetic surgeon may also ask you to wear a supportive surgical bra or sports bra for a certain period of time after breast augmentation—it is crucial to follow your cosmetic surgeon’s instructions to ensure you heal optimally.

If your breast implants are placed partially beneath the pectoral muscle—the preferred method in most cases—your breasts may seem to sit high on the chest at first. This is normal, and your implants will settle into their optimal position over the next several weeks, with final results after a couple of months.

Once you have your breast implants, you’ll want to keep the following in mind:

  • It’s safe to have mammograms with breast implants, so be sure to maintain regular screening as prescribed by your doctor.
  • For silicone implants, it is recommended that patients undergo periodic monitoring (via mammogram, ultrasound or MRI) to screen for ruptures, which are rare.
  • Future pregnancies or weight fluctuations may affect your results, and a secondary surgery may be needed to correct any changes you are unhappy with over time.
  • Nothing can stop the normal aging process; over time, breast tissue will change. You can help prevent unnecessary sagging by wearing a bra with adequate support for your activity level.

When performed by a qualified cosmetic surgeon, breast augmentation is a safe surgery with long-lasting results, and the overwhelming number of patients are very glad they chose to have the procedure. The best way to decide whether or not breast augmentation is right for you is to meet with a board certified cosmetic surgeon for a consultation. You can find cosmetic surgeons in your area by using our ABCS Find-a-Surgeon tool.