Stephen McCulley, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeon. MBChb, FCS(SA)Plast, FRCS(plast)

Your Guide to Breast Augmentation and the Associated Risks

It is no surprise that breast augmentation is one of the most popular forms of cosmetic surgery, as the benefits aren’t just restricted to an enhanced breast shape. An increase in confidence and self-esteem is widely expressed from patients who have undergone breast augmentation, not to mention heightened feelings of femininity. As with all forms of surgery there is a risk to breast augmentation, however, for many women, the benefits far outweigh any potential problems.

Why would you choose to undergo breast surgery?

In many cases, breast surgery is performed after a woman has had children or has lost weight and her natural breasts have altered in appearance and firmness due to her changing body shape. Some women are simply unhappy with their natural breasts, possibly because they are asymmetric or smaller than they wish. There is also the unavoidable fact that women’s clothes are cut to accommodate an ‘average’ breast size, and women with smaller breasts may find that they simply cannot find clothes to suit their shape which could lead them to feel less feminine. With this in mind, breast enhancement can create a more balanced silhouette, make clothing hang better as a result.

breast surgery preperation

Damage limitation

As with most things in life, you will always encounter pros and cons. And whilst the decision to undergo breast surgery shouldn’t be taken lightly, there is evidence to support the fact that a very high percentage of breast surgery cases are incredibly successful.

The best way to avoid any potential risks is to choose a reputable clinic with surgeons who are experienced in breast surgery. A professional breast surgeon will be more than willing to discuss the potential risks and problems with breast augmentation with you. As this is such a popular type of surgery, many of the potential risks can be avoided or at least identified straightaway, so it is advisable to arm yourself with the facts so that you know what to look out for.

Possible risks and problems associated with breast surgery:

Infections

In the first few weeks following your operation it is possible that you could get an infection in your breast tissue. This will present itself with symptoms such as soreness, swelling and a fever. Consult your surgeon immediately for the best chance of successfully treating the infection with antibiotics. However, depending on the severity of the infection, it is possible that the implant may need to be removed so that the infection can be treated properly and to minimise further risks to your health.

 

Capsular contraction

A common problem with breast enlargements is when the body forms a layer of scar around the implant, causing scar tissue to build up around it over time. It can become firm. This can be uncomfortable or look different. In this situation, the surgeon can attempt to remove the scar tissue and usually change the implant. It is thought the most common cause is a very low-grade infection stuck onto the implant.

Sensitivity

The sensitivity of the skin on and around the breast and nipples can be affected after a breast enlargement operation. Some women find that their breasts are more or less sensitive after the procedure, in some cases this can be permanent, but for most women the sensitivity settles down over time.

Implant ruptures

Occasionally breast implants can leak, this happens when the implant splits or tears and the liquid inside seeps out. In the case of a silicone implant, it is very difficult to detect leakage, as the silicone leaks out very slowly. Regular MRI screenings or ultrasound are the only way to detect a rupture in a silicone implant. In most cases the silicone is held within the scar capsule and harmless. If moves beyond the capsule it can cause lumps, discomfort and lymph glands to enlarge, although even then is more problematic than dangerous.

Wrinkling

The outer cover or shell of implants can sometimes be prone to wrinkling or folding. This can cause a rippling effect that can occasionally be visible on the sides of the breast. Most implants probably wrinkle or ripple and is more commonly seen in thin patients.

New breast angst

There is the occasional case where women who have longed for bigger breasts for years simply don’t like them once they have finally gone through with the operation. This could be because the surgeon misinterpreted what the patient wanted, or it could simply be because the patient just can’t adjust to their new shape. The best advice in this case is to give the new breasts time to acclimatise, it often takes a few weeks for the implants to settle into their final position. It is perfectly normal for the newly shaped breasts to be positioned awkwardly at first, and often nipples can sit differently. Providing a reputable breast surgeon performed the operation, in most cases, these issues will rectify themselves relatively quickly.

Warning signs

As with all forms of surgery, the weeks following the operation are crucial for spotting the signs of any complications. Naturally there will be tenderness and some local swelling and bruising, but it is worth checking with your surgeon if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe pain in either or both of your breasts.
  • Inflamed redness on the breasts.
  • An intense burning sensation in the breasts that causes discomfort.
  • Excessive swelling on or around the breasts.
  • Deflated breasts.
  • Coloured discharge from your wounds or an unpleasant smell.
  • A raised, feverish temperature.
  • Any excessive aching or unusual lumps.

woman in surgery

How to prepare for the surgery

Once you are armed with all of the facts, have chosen your surgeon and have agreed on the desired outcome of the operation, the countdown to the surgery date begins! Your clinic will undoubtedly have supplied you with a lot of information about your specific procedure and you should now be armed with instructions for what the clinic requires of you prior to the operation, in line with your individual requirements.

Aside from the clinic specific guidelines, these additional tips can help you mentally and physically prepare and feel ready for the operation.

Avoid alcohol and cigarettes – It is advisable to avoid alcohol for a few days prior to the surgery. If you are a smoker it is important to limit your intake of cigarettes as much as possible both before and after the surgery. If you are unable to stop smoking entirely it is recommended that you cut down the amount that you smoke. For many smokers this is easier said than done, however the NHS can offer support and advice on helping you cut back.

Kick start healthy living – Whilst it is always important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and take regular exercise, it is essential that you are in tip top health prior to breast surgery. Vigorous exercise such as heavy lifting should be avoided during the days leading up to your operation though.

Discuss any prescription drugs – Your surgeon should be aware of any prescription drugs that you are taking and they will be able to give you advice on how to manage them. If you take over the counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen then you might be advised to refrain from taking these leading up to the surgery. It’s vitally important that you discuss medication with your surgeon some weeks before the operation so that you have a plan in place for how to manage it.

The day before surgery – On the day before your surgery, most clinics will insist that you refrain from eating or drinking anything after midnight.

Enlist help – Make sure that you have someone to take you to and from the clinic as you will be unable to drive for a period of time following the surgery. You will also require some assistance around the house, especially if you have small children, so be sure to make arrangements with a family member or friend.

woman relaxing after surgery

Pre-warned is pre-armed

For the majority of women who have been delighted with the results of their breast augmentation, being prepared about what to expect and what to look out for made a great difference to their experience. If you arm yourself with all of the facts and talk through the entire procedure with your surgeon you will be far less likely to encounter any unpleasant surprises. And, before long, all worries surrounding the surgery and potential risks will be overshadowed by the newly gained confidence that you will no doubt experience as a result of your new, improved breasts.

To find out more about the breast surgery options offered by Stephen McCulley please call 0115 9624535 or read our breast enlargement page.

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Potential complications after breast augmentation – FAQs