Breast Augmentation (Breast Enlargement)
In 2004, surgeons performed over 334,000 breast augmentation procedures, making breast enlargement the second most popular cosmetic surgical procedure after liposuction, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Women often choose to enhance the size and shape of their breasts because they feel they are too small or their breast size has shrunk after pregnancy. Breast augmentation is also performed to balance a difference in breast size or as a reconstructive procedure following breast surgery.
During breast augmentation, the surgeon makes an incision either in the bottom crease of the breast, the armpit, or along the lower edge of the areola (the colored area around the nipple). The doctor then inserts the implant -- usually a soft silicone shell filled with saline (saltwater) -- through the incision.* The implant is positioned either under the breast tissue or the chest muscle beneath the breast. Once the implant's shape and position beneath the nipple are adjusted, the doctor stitches the incision closed.
Breast augmentation is usually performed as an outpatient procedure in a hospital or outpatient surgical center. An overnight stay is usually not required unless there are complications. The surgery lasts one to two hours. General anesthesia with sedation is usually used, but the procedure may also be performed in some cases under local anesthesia.
*Note: Saline vs. silicone implants: Since 1992, the use of implants filled with silicone gel has been restricted in the United States and parts of Europe because of concerns that there is insufficient information demonstrating their safety if the implants leak or rupture. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that new silicone gel-filled implants should only be available to women participating in approved studies. Saline implants are considered safe and are the most commonly used breast implants. If these implants leak or rupture, the body can safely absorb the saline. In the future, additional types of filler materials may become available, as new scientific data is collected. Ask your plastic surgeon to provide you with the most up-to-date information.
Pain Level/Recovery Time: Gauze dressings (if used) are removed within several days. Stitches may be removed within seven to 10 days. A surgical bra should be worn for support and comfort. Most women feel tired and experience soreness, swelling, and bruising for several days following surgery. (Some swelling may take three to five weeks to subside.) Pain relievers may help alleviate these symptoms. Some women experience a burning sensation in their nipples for about two weeks, but this will subside as the bruising fades. Most women can return to work and their normal routine within a few days, provided that they don't do any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise. Scars will usually be well hidden and may fade entirely after several months.
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