Breast augmentation is a common cosmetic procedure. It is safe, but as with any surgery, risk is involved. Women who are considering breast augmentation, but have concerns with the process should gather as much information as possible.

What do you need to know about the safety of the procedure?

There are two types of breast enhancement surgery and several other augmentation options including reduction, lift, and balance. All are considered safe. Two options for implant enhancement, silicone and saline, are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Both saline and silicone implants can rupture, but in recent years, the danger related to rupture has diminished a great deal. At one time, silicone implants were restricted because of the risk associated with rupture. During this time, saline implants were the only option. Saline implants can rupture, but the salt solution in the implant is absorbed into the body. The only harm in saline rupture is the altered shape of the breast and the need to restore the implant. In 2006, silicone implants were once again approved by the FDA and are now considered safe, even if a rupture occurs. Silicone can be released into the body, but there is no evidence this poses any risk. Should a silicone rupture occur, the implant, as well as the wayward silicone, will need to be surgically removed.

Though concerns about post-surgery rupture have been greatly reduced, women should consider the risks associated with the surgical procedure before moving forward with augmentation. As always, surgery comes with risks. Augmentation is performed under general anesthesia, which carries its own risks separate from the actual surgery. There are some instances in which augmentation surgery is performed with local anesthesia and IV sedation, but this is rare. It is important to choose an experienced, reputable doctor to perform your surgery. During the recovery period, patients and their doctors must watch for any increase in swelling, bleeding, or infection.

Breast implant surgery is a permanent procedure, but implants are not made to last forever. Implants can wear out over the course of several years and need replacement. If a woman decides to remove her implants, her natural breast tissue may have been permanently altered. It is also important for a woman to choose a radiologist familiar with implants when the time comes to schedule a mammogram.

How is Augmentation Surgery Performed?

Following sedation, the surgical procedure begins with an incision into the breast skin and tissue. Your doctor will discuss beforehand where the incision should be placed and how its location affects scarring. Breast tissue is raised and the implant is placed underneath. In some cases the implant is laid behind the pectoral muscle and in others it is placed in front. If you have chosen saline implants, the implant is filled with solution after it is placed. Following the insertion of the implant, breast tissue is re-laid and the skin is sutured. Patients remain in the care of the surgical center for at least two hours following the procedure and in some cases, overnight. Post-surgery, your torso is wrapped in gauze or you are placed in a surgical bra.

Patients need assistance returning home from the surgery center or hospital, so ask a friend or relative to accompany you during your procedure. You will also need home care in the days following because recovery includes mild to moderate pain and decreased mobility. Speak with your doctor in advance concerning your follow-up treatment and what you can do to maintain as much comfort as possible as you heal.