Breast Enlargement

What is breast enlargement (augmentation) procedure and why is it performed?

A breast augmentation procedure is performed by inserting a breast implant behind a woman's natural breast tissue. The inserted implant projects the natural breast tissue forward, giving a fuller breast appearance. This procedure is performed on women within a broad age range who wish to enhance their breast size and shape for the following reasons:

  • Dissatisfaction with their original breast size
  • A desire to regain or improve breast shape and size following significant weight loss or child birth
  • A wish to correct uneven breasts (asymmetry)
  • Correction of a congenital deformity of one or both breasts

Breast implant surgery can provide both physical and psychological benefits. Patients who have undergone this procedure report that they feel more feminine and confident with their new body image.

How is the procedure performed?

Breast enlargement surgery is generally performed under general anaesthesia. The procedure takes around one hour to perform and patients typically stay in hospital for one night to recover.

Breast augmentation surgery is performed by making a fine incision in the crease-line beneath the breast itself, through the armpit, or around the underside of the nipple area. Implants can be positioned in one of two places within the breast cavity:

The two potential sites are:

(i) In front of the chest muscle. This route is typically chosen when a patient has sufficient skin and breast tissue to give good natural looking coverage over the breast implant.
(ii) Behind the chest muscle. This route is typically chosen when a patient has insufficient skin and breast tissue to give a natural looking coverage over the breast implant.

What are the results like?

This procedure can provide excellent results in women wishing to enhance and increase their breast shape and size. The procedure should only be performed by a Consultant Plastic Surgeon who is fully qualified and well experienced in this type of specialist breast surgery.

Improved results will take place immediately following breast implant surgery, but the final result can be obscured by initial swelling. It can take up to 14 days for initial swelling and bruising to settle down, but residual swelling will settle down gradually over several months. Typically the fine incisions and scars that are made by performing this procedure are well hidden in the natural breast crease, or arm pit, or in the pigmented margin surrounding the nipple area.

How will you feel after a breast augmentation procedure and what is the recovery period like?

Most women experience some discomfort following breast surgery and take mild pain killers for up to one week following surgery. It is important to allow for a natural period of healing to take place and for women who lead busy lives to abstain from strenuous activity or from heavy lifting for six weeks following surgery. Initially, breasts will be firm and they will take at least six weeks to soften to a more natural appearance and feel. Breast swelling will settle down completely after several months.

It is usual for patients to take 7 to 14 days away from work to rest and recover at home following this type of procedure.

Are there any risks involved having a breast augmentation procedure?

All surgery involves an element of risk from complications. However, cosmetic surgery is usually undertaken voluntarily and only when a patient is in good health. Therefore, the probability of experiencing complications from this kind of surgery is substantially lower than for those who undergo surgery due to ill health.

General risks such as bleeding, infection, asymmetry (unevenness) and scarring will be discussed openly at consultation, as well as our concerted efforts to minimise these risks. However, this procedure also involves specific risks that need to be considered. These are:

  • Capsular contracture (hardening)
    Capsular contracture occurs when the human body puts a wall of scar tissue around the breast implant. This scar tissue can then thicken and shrink and is noticed by the patient as an apparent hardening of the breast implant. Where a capsular contracture becomes noticeable, remedial surgery to correct this problem can be performed.
  • Rupture rates and life expectancy of breast implants
    Recent advances in implant technology mean that breast implant ruptures are unlikely. However, a true evaluation of life expectancy is difficult as modern day implants are a very new kind of technology. Consequently, the Department of Health asks manufacturers and plastic surgeons to advise women that they may need to consider renewing their implants after a ten year period.
  • Scarring
    Very occasionally a scar may heal abnormally and become thick, raised and painful. This condition can sometimes be treated with a special dressing or with anti-inflammatory injections or if unresponsive with corrective minor surgery.
  • Infection and rejection
    On very rare occasions a patient's body may be unable to cope with the introduction of a foreign body (such as a breast implant) and this may lead to infection or a total rejection of the new breast implant. Antibiotics given during your operation will help reduce this risk to a minimum, as will meticulous attention to your personal hygiene.
  • Changes in breast sensation
    Changes in breast sensation are commonly experienced following breast surgery and usually subside
    following full recovery. Occasionally, patients report that their nipples or breast skin remain more or less
    sensitive in the long term following surgery.
  • Palpability
    Women with very little natural breast tissue should be advised that the rim of the breast implant might be visible or detectable to touch. Your surgeon may recommend placing an implant behind the chest muscle to minimise this effect if he/she believes that the implant ridge could appear unsightly.

General Issues

  • Pregnancy and breast feeding
    Breast implants do not interfere with a woman's ability to breast feed.
  • Breast cancer
    There is no known association between breast cancer and breast implants.
  • Mammography
    Women with breast implants should inform a radiographer that they have breast implants, so that the most appropriate method of breast screening and mammography can be performed.
  • Travelling at high altitudes 
    Breast implants are not subject to strain, pressure or rupture when travelling in an aircraft or at high altitudes.
  • Smoking
    Heavy smokers may be precluded from having breast implant surgery due to their increased risk of infection and rejection complications.

What next?

At One Healthcare we believe that it is important for all prospective patients to have realistic expectations of the improvements that can be achieved through breast implant surgery. Your Consultant Plastic Surgeon will take into account your age, skin texture, and the existing shape and position of your breast tissue and nipples when predicting the outcome of your results. It is therefore essential to have a thorough consultation with a Consultant Plastic Surgeon who specialises in breast surgery in both the NHS & Private practice before you make a decision to go ahead with a procedure.

Your surgeon will take time to listen to your concerns regarding your present breast size, and will take care to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of what can be done to help, the procedure itself, the recovery stages and a clear explanation of the risks involved. You will need time to consider all these factors before making a decision regarding breast augmentation.

You are positively encouraged to ask any questions that you may have and to look at photographs of others who have had the same type of surgery that you are considering. If you would find it helpful, our advisory team may be able to arrange for you to speak with a previous One Healthcare patient who is willing to discuss their experience with you over the telephone.

How to arrange a consultation with a fully qualified Consultant Surgeon with GMC specialist registration

Please feel free to call our Customer Service Advisory Team at your local One Healthcare Hospital who will be pleased to answer any queries, or make an appointment for you to meet with a Consultant Surgeon who has specialist skills and experience in breast augmentation surgery.

Our Customer Advisory Service is personally manned between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday. We will also be happy to discreetly return your call if you leave a short message, forwarding name and telephone number on our confidential answer phone after office hours.

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