Augmentation Mammaplasty

Augmentation mammaplasty (breast enlargement) is performed to increase breast size and/or fix breast asymmetry. Candidates include women who want larger breasts, and those who want to restore the breast volume often lost as a result of pregnancy or significant weight loss. Breasts can be enlarged with implants or by fat transplantation. Augmentation mammaplasty is not a substitute for mastopexy, which is a procedure to "lift" breasts that sag significantly.

Augmentation Mammaplasty with Implants

Silicone and saline are the two implant types most commonly used in augmentation mammaplasty. Silicone implants feel more like natural breasts than saline ones. However, if a saline implant ruptures, the saline is naturally absorbed by the body, whereas if a silicone implant has a rupture the silicone can cause a capsular contracture or even an enlarged lymph node.

Implants are placed behind each breast, underneath either breast tissue or the chest-wall muscle. The procedure lasts 1 to 2 hours, and is typically performed with general anesthesia, although local anesthesia combined with a sedative may be used. Incisions are made in inconspicuous places (in the armpit, in the crease on the underside of the breast, or around the areola) to minimize scar visibility. The breast is then lifted, creating a pocket into which the implant is inserted.

Advantages of implant placement behind the chest-wall muscle include a possible reduced risk of capsular contracture (hardening of scar tissue around implant), and less interference during mammograms. Disadvantages include the possible need for drainage tubes, and a longer recovery period. Advantages of implant placement beneath breast tissue include that the breasts move more naturally as the patient uses her chest muscles, and that slight breast sagging is corrected.

Other types of implants include "gummy bear," round, smooth and textured.

Augmentation Mammaplasty with Fat Transplantation

Augmentation mammaplasty with fat transplantation (fat transfer) uses liposuction to harvest excess fat from other parts of the body; the fat is then injected into the breasts. 

Recovery from Augmentation Mammaplasty

After augmentation mammaplasty with implants, drainage tubes may be inserted; incisions are stitched, taped and bandaged. A surgical bra is typically put over the bandages to minimize swelling and support the breasts. For a few days postsurgery, most patients feel tired and sore, but many return to work within a week. Stitches are removed in 1 week to 10 days; postoperative pain, swelling and sensitivity diminish during the first few weeks. Scars begin to fade in a few months.

Risks of Augmentation Mammaplasty

In addition to the risks associated with surgery and anesthesia, those related to augmentation mammaplasty using implants include the following:

  • Capsular contracture
  • Implant leaks and ruptures
  • Implant deflation or shifting
  • Temporary or permanent change in nipple/breast sensation
  • Irregularities in breast contour/shape
  • Asymmetry

The risks related to augmentation mammaplasty using fat transplantation include those related to liposuction, as well as the following:

  • Calcification
  • Fat embolism
  • Fat necrosis
  • Oil cysts
  • Loss of volume

Additional Resources