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A patient's guide to cosmetic surgery sponsored by Nuffield Health

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Nuffield Health, a leading provider of cosmetic surgery in the UK, with a network of 30 private hospitals across the country.

Cosmetic surgery

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Breast enlargement surgery guide

Breast enlargement

Breast enlargement surgery is also known as breast enhancement or breast augmentation. This form of cosmetic surgery aims to increase the cup size of the breasts, giving you a fuller more voluptuous figure. A breast enlargement usually involves breast implants and can be done in combination with a breast uplift.

Why consider breast enlargement surgery?

The size of your breasts is due to a mixture of genetic factors and your age and weight. Pregnancy and breast feeding usually provides a natural breast enlargement but some women find that their breasts ‘deflate’ afterwards. Women whose breasts are naturally small or that have shrunk with age may want to change their image. Cosmetic breast surgery is not cheap but it is affordable and young, affluent women may opt for breast enlargement surgery. The pressure to do this increased in recent years as celebrities have made very full breasts more fashionable.

A small proportion of women having breast enlargement surgery have asymmetric breasts. This is usually due to a problem in breast development on one side only, resulting in a normally shaped breast and a very small underdeveloped one. Breast enlargement surgery is usually performed on both breasts but it can be done on one breast only to restore balance.

What does a breast enlargement involve?

Cosmetic breast enlargement involves insertion of breast implants to increase the size of the breasts. The operation is carried out while you are asleep, under a general anaesthetic. The surgery takes 2-3 hours and you normally spend at least a night in hospital before being allowed home.

Different breast surgeons have different techniques but breast enlargement surgery generally involves:

  • Making an incision in the fold under each breast. The scar is then virtually invisible. Incisions may also be made at the side of the breast, near to the armpit or around the areola.
  • Placement of the breast implant. Many different types, sizes and shapes of breast implant are available but they contain either silicone gel or saline. The implant is placed in the breast itself, between the chest wall and the nipple, or underneath the muscle band in the chest wall.
  • Closure of the surgical wound. Your cosmetic surgeon will use stitches that are absorbed by the body.

After your breast enlargement

You will probably need a drain in for the first day after surgery but you will soon be mobile and if there are no complications, you will be home within 48-72 hours. Your breasts will feel sore and bruised and healing will take several weeks to be complete. Your cosmetic breast surgeon will advise you on how to take care of your wounds and breasts and you will need to wear a bra that supports your enlarged breasts for a few weeks.

What risks are involved in a breast enlargement?

As well as the general risks of surgery, which include infection, bleeding and scarring, breast enlargement also carries some specific risks that are related to the implants used.

  • All breast implants have a covering of silicone that comes into contact with the body’s tissues. All women respond to an implant by forming a protective membrane around it. Normally, this is no problem and is invisible from the outside. However, in a small number of women, this membrane becomes quite thick and causes the skin of the breast to pull and pucker. If this happens, the implant may need to be removed and replaced.
  • Implants can burst or leak, causing local inflammation, and need to be removed. Extensive studies have been done over the last few years and show that even if this happens, it does not cause serious health problems such as rare forms of cancer. This had been suggested after the PIP implant scandal in 2011 (see below) but it has now been shown that breast implants do not increase cancer risk.
  • The quality of breast implants can be dubious. In 2011, news broke that PIP implants, manufacture by a French company, had been implanted into thousands of women in the late 1990s. These were found to contain silicone that was not medical grade (it should have been used for mattresses). Although this was not acceptable practice, there is no evidence that women with PIP implants experienced health problems that were due to the breast implants, even if they leaked.

What does a breast enlargement cost?

Typical range in a UK private hospital or clinic is £2,675.00 – 6,020.00.

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