Risks and complications of breast enlargement
All surgical procedures contain some degree of risk. A breast augmentation is no exception and is comprised of general surgery risks as well as more specific risks concerning side effects and complications in connection with the procedure.
The general risks of breast enlargements can be read more about on the page about plastic surgeries general risks ». The procedure specific risks connected with breast enlargements are described below.
Capsule contracture with breast enlargement
The most common complication is capsule contracture which involves a capsule of connective tissue forming around the breast implant as a stage in the body’s healing process which then hardens and contracts. The implant can then become tightened into ball, making the breast appear abnormal and often painful.
Capsule contracture appears in 0.3-5% of patients when using modern breast implants and surgical methods of breast enlargement. The condition is generally treated through surgery. Such a surgery may consist of changing the placement of the implants, replacing the implants or alternatively removing or cutting through the capsule around the implants.
Permanent unevenness in the shape of dips and waves in the skin of the breast (rippling) is a common cause of cosmetic dissatisfaction following breast augmentations. The condition occurs as a result of the implant creasing, sinking slightly or because the surface of the implant is pulling on the scar tissue which in turn pulls on the skin.
The best way to avoid rippling is to make sure there is enough tissue between the implant and the skin and to limit the implant size. Large implants, as previously been mentioned, have a greater tendency to crease.
Permanent rippling is more common when placing the breast implant above the muscle, especially in women with limited existing breast tissue. The complication occurs less when using silicone implants rather than saline implants.
According to many surgeons the risk of rippling is less when smooth breast implants are used for breast enlargements. Rippling can also occur as situational rippling, which often becomes visible when the client leans forward.
In rare cases the area around the breast implant becomes infected. This complication can occur at any time but most often within a week of surgery. In some cases the breast implant needs to be removed until the infection is healed. One then waits 4-6 months for the tissue to recover before inserting a new implant.
You will receive permanent scaring after your breast enlargement. These are normally small, discreet and rarely cause trouble.
In some cases however it is possible that the scars after a breast enlargement become more prominent than what you expected and may need correcting treatment.
By carefully caring for your scars you can influence the healing. You can read more about this at the information page about surgical scars » (coming soon).
Tactile changes of the nipple
Some women experience that the sensitivity of their nipple/breasts change after a breast enlargement. It can take up to two years before the sensitivity normalises but generally this subsides with time. For some patients the changes can however be permanent following breast augmentation.
Rupture (damages to the breast implant)
In some cases a breast implant can leak or rupture. Damage to the implant can occur due to an accident or due to an everyday situation where the implant is exposed to hard strain, which can lead to the implant leaking. Mammography is normally not such a strain. If a breast implant ruptures the manufacturer generally replaces it free of charge.
If a breast implant with saline rupture the implant will sink within a few hours. The implants valve can also leak but the saline will then disappear more slowly. The liquid is absorbed by the body and exits through the body’s normal system.
Is a silicone implant with silicone gel ruptures the gel generally stays in the implant (intracapsular rupture) but it can leak into the connective tissue pocket (extracapsular rupture). This can lead to scar tissue within the breast which must be surgically attended to. A ruptured gel filled breast implant does not necessarily sink, which means it is not noticed until undergoing a medical examination, for instance a mammography.
Breast enlargement and breast feeding
Breast implants do not affect a woman’s ability to breast feed and neither is there any risk for the baby during pregnancy. However, the changes to the body following a pregnancy can alter the result of a breast enlargement. It is therefore important to discuss your pregnancy and breast feeding plans with your surgeon before undergoing a breast enlargement.
The implants do not move over the years, but the breast tissue covering the implants does which can over time result in a more sagging appearance.
Breast enlargement and mammography
Since breast implants can make mammographies more difficult you may need to undergo additional examinations. It is important to always tell the personnel before such an examination that you have implants.
Even if complications after breast enlargements are uncommon (less than 5% are affected by some kind of complication or side effect) you should discuss these with your surgeon so that you have a good understanding of the risks and consequences of a breast enlargement.