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Breast implants are one of the most popular forms of cosmetic surgery, giving the patient larger, firmer, or more even breasts. The operation is a relatively simple procedure and can have significant benefits in improving self-esteem and confidence.

This article on breast implants surgery is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.


Planning

As with all cosmetic surgery, you should first consult your GP, even if you’re planning to have your breast implants done privately. Your GP is best placed to advise you, and with a GP referral your private surgeon will gain access to your full medical records.

Your GP may recommend a local surgeon to you, or you can choose your own and ask for a referral. If you’ve decided to find a breast implants surgeon yourself you should consider the options carefully, taking into account factors such as the surgeon’s experience and qualifications, the clinic location and facilities, and your sense of confidence in the organisation, as well as the overall cost.

Consultation

Your cosmetic surgeon will explain the procedure in full and answer any questions you may have. He or she will also ask you a series of questions relating to your medical history, your current health, and your lifestyle. It’s important to be honest with your surgeon as many of these factors can affect the outcome of your treatment.

Your surgeon will explain the breast implant choices available and you’ll be able to select the size and shape of your new breasts. He or she will help you in your decision so you have a realistic expectation of your post-operative shape.

You can also choose the type of breast implant you want, its eventual position, and the route of access to the site of the operation.

Types

There are three types of breast implant in common use. These are saline filled, fluid silicone, and gel silicone and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

  • Saline-filled breast implants are safer in the event of a rupture, as the body harmlessly absorbs the saline solution. However, they feel less natural and are prone to wrinkling and shrinkage.
  • Fluid silicone breast implants are less likely to wrinkle and feel more natural. However, they will lose their shape quickly in the event of rupturing, and the silicone is more harmful to the body in fluid form.
  • Gel silicone breast implants retain their shape even in the event of rupturing and reduce the chances of silicone entering the bloodstream. However, they feel less natural and can have a more false appearance.

Position of implants

Breast implants can be positioned either in front or behind the chest muscles. Once again, there are advantages and disadvantages to each.

  • Subglandular breast implants are positioned behind the breast but in front of the muscle. This involves simpler surgery and a quicker recovery, however the risk of problems with the implants slightly increase. Such implants can also interfere with mammograms.
  • Submuscular breast implants are placed behind the chest muscle wall. This involves more complex surgery with a longer, more painful recovery time, however these implants are less problematic and do not affect mammography.

Procedure

The route taken into the breast will affect scarring and future function. There are three commonly used access routes:

  • Periareolar – where access is gained via a small incision around the nipple. This leaves little noticeable scar but may impair nipple function and prevent breastfeeding.
  • Inframammory – where access is gained from a small incision directly under the breast. This does leave a small scar but does not affect breastfeeding.
  • Axillary – used less frequently than the other routes, involving a small incision near the armpit. This does not impair breastfeeding.

Naturally, your cosmetic surgeon will advise you on all of these issues to ensure you get the treatment that is right for you.

Recovery

In some cases, breast implants surgery can be done as a day case, and you will not have to stay in hospital. In most cases, however, you should expect to stay in for one or two nights.

After your surgery, your breasts will feel tender and sore, and you will need to take a week or more off work to recover. If you have any concerns during this time, such as unusual swelling, soreness or pain, or an intense feeling of heat in the breast, you should contact your surgeon immediately.

The initial swelling and bruising will quickly fade; however your new breasts may feel tight for some time, as it takes several months for the skin, tissue, and muscle to grow and stretch around the implants.

Risks

Modern breast implants are very safe and ruptures are now rare, however they are still possible. If this happens, you will need to undergo further surgery to remove the ruptured implant and replace it. Despite the advances in design, it’s still rare for a woman to go through her whole life with the same implants and you should be prepared to have them replaced or removed at some time in the future.

Other risks associated with breast implant surgery include capsular contraction in which the scar tissue from the operation shrinks compromising the implant. This occurs in around 10% of cases. Furthermore, as with any surgery, there are also risks of infection and blood clots, as well as haematomas at the site of the operation.

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