Breast implantation is usually performed to make normal breasts larger for cosmetic purposes. Sometimes a woman having a breast reconstruction after a mastectomy will need the opposite breast enlarged to make the breasts more symmetrical. Breasts that are very unequal in size due to trauma or congenital deformity may also be equalized with an enlargement procedure.
Male-to-female transsexuals may use breast implantation to achieve the physical appearance of a female.
Cosmetic breast enlargement or augmentation is usually performed as an outpatient procedure. It may be done under local or general anesthesia, depending on patient and physician preference. The incision is typically made through the armpit (axilla), along the fold line under the breast, or around the areola (the darkened area around the nipple); these techniques create the most inconspicuous scars. The implant is placed in one of two locations: between the breast tissue and underlying chest muscle, or under the chest muscle. The operation takes approximately one to two hours. The procedure may also be called breast augmentation or augmentation mammoplasty.
The diagnosis for breast reconstruction is almost always visual. The underlying medical reasons include equalizing otherwise normal breasts that are markedly different in size, replacing all or part of breast tissue that has been removed during the course of cancer treatment, or replacing breast mass that has been lost due to injury. Underlying cosmetic reasons include personal preference for larger breasts among genetic females or the creation of breasts in male-to-female transsexuals.
Before any surgery is performed, the woman should have a clear understanding of what her new breasts will look like. She and her physician should agree about the desired final result. Many surgeons find it helpful to have the patient review before and after pictures of other patients, to clarify expectations. Computer modeling is often used to assess expected results.
A person in poor health or having a severe or chronic disease is not a good candidate for this procedure.
Many normal activities such as driving may be restricted for up to one week. Sutures are usually removed in seven to 10 days. Typically, a woman can resume all routines, including vigorous exercise , in about three weeks. The scars will be red for approximately one month, but will fade to their final appearance within one to two years.
Risks associated with this procedure are similar to those of any surgical procedure. These risks include bleeding, infection, reaction to anesthesia, or unexpected scarring. A breast enlargement may also result in decreased sensation in the breast or interference with breastfeeding. Implants can also make it more difficult to read and interpret mammograms, possibly delaying breast cancer detection. Also, the implant itself can rupture and leak, or become displaced. A thick scar that normally forms around the implant, called a capsule, can become very hard. This is called capsular contracture, and may result in pain and possible altered appearance of the breast. The chances that these problems will occur increase with the age of the implant.