Find out about surgery to increase breast size, as well as the risks, benefits, possible complications and follow-up care.
Breast augmentation — also known as augmentation mammoplasty — is surgery to increase breast size. It involves placing breast implants under breast tissue or chest muscles.
For some women, breast augmentation is a way to feel more confident. For others, it's part of rebuilding the breast for various conditions.
If you're considering breast augmentation, talk to a plastic surgeon. Make sure you understand what surgery involves, including possible risks, complications and follow-up care.
Breast augmentation might help you:
Discuss your goals with your plastic surgeon so that you can be realistic about what breast augmentation can do for you.
Breast augmentation poses various risks, including:
Correcting these complications might require more surgery, to either remove or replace the implants.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified a possible association between breast implants and the development of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), an uncommon cancer of the immune system. The condition is known as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). The FDA believes that women with breast implants that have textured surfaces have a very low but increased risk of developing BIA-ALCL. However, that doesn't mean that these implants cause BIA-ALCL. Further research is needed to understand the relationship between the condition and breast implants.
Systemic symptoms — sometimes called breast implant illness — may be associated with breast implants. The exact relationship of these symptoms to breast implants is not clearly understood. Reported signs and symptoms include fatigue, memory loss, skin rash, trouble concentrating and thinking clearly, and joint pain. Removal of the breast implants may reverse the symptoms. Research to determine the link and the cause is ongoing. Talk to your plastic surgeon if you have breast implants and experience any of these signs and symptoms.
If you notice any changes to your breasts or implants, talk to your doctor. Ongoing follow-up visits and appropriate screening tests can detect and address possible complications related to breast augmentation surgery.
You'll consult with a plastic surgeon about your preferences for size, feel and appearance of your breasts. The surgeon will describe specific types of implants — smooth or textured, round or shaped like a teardrop, saline or silicone — as well as options for surgical techniques.
Carefully review written information, such as the patient information from the manufacturer of the implant you'll be getting, and keep copies for your records.
Before you decide to have surgery, consider the following:
You might need a baseline mammogram before your surgery. Your doctor might adjust certain medications before the surgery as well. For example, it's important to avoid aspirin or other medications that can increase bleeding.
If you smoke, your surgeon will ask you to stop smoking for a time — about four to six weeks — before and after the surgery.
Arrange for someone to drive you home after the surgery and to stay with you for at least the first night.
Breast augmentation can be done in a surgical center or hospital outpatient facility. You'll probably go home the same day. The procedure rarely requires a hospital stay.
Sometimes, breast augmentation is done during local anesthesia — you're awake and your breast area is numbed. Often, though, breast augmentation is done during general anesthesia, in which you're asleep for the surgery. Your plastic surgeon will review different anesthesia options with you.
To insert the breast implant, your plastic surgeon will make a single cut (incision) in one of three places:
After making an incision, the surgeon will separate your breast tissue from the muscles and connective tissue of your chest. This creates a pocket either behind or in front of the outermost muscle of the chest wall (pectoral muscle). The surgeon will insert the implant into this pocket and center it behind your nipple.
Saline implants are inserted empty and then filled with sterile salt water once they're in place. Silicone implants are pre-filled with silicone gel.
When the implant is in place, the surgeon will close the incision — typically with stitches (sutures) — and bandage it with skin adhesive and surgical tape.
Soreness and swelling are likely for a few weeks after surgery. Bruising is possible, too. Expect scars to fade over time but not disappear completely.
While you're healing, it might help to wear a compression bandage or sports bra for extra support and positioning of the breast implants. Your surgeon might prescribe pain medication as well.
Follow your surgeon's instructions about returning to regular activities. If you don't have a physically demanding job, you might be able to return to work within a few weeks. Avoid strenuous activities — anything that could raise your pulse or blood pressure — for at least two weeks. While you're healing, remember that your breasts will be sensitive to physical contact or jarring movements.
If your surgeon used sutures that don't absorb on their own or placed drainage tubes near your breasts, you'll need a follow-up appointment for removal.
If you notice warmth and redness in your breast or you have a fever, you might have an infection. Contact your surgeon as soon as possible. Also contact your surgeon if you have shortness of breath or chest pain.
During breast augmentation, the surgeon makes an incision in one of three possible places: the crease under your breast (inframammary), under your arm (axillary) or around your nipple (periareolar).
Breast augmentation can change the size and shape of your breasts. The surgery might improve your body image and self-esteem. But keep your expectations realistic, and don't expect perfection.
Also, your breasts will continue to age after augmentation. Weight gain or weight loss might change the way your breasts look, too. If you become dissatisfied with the appearance of your breasts, you might need more surgery to correct these issues.