When a woman is dissatisfied with the appearance of her breasts, she may consider cosmetic breast surgery. Lack of tissue, sagging due to breastfeeding, and deformities present at birth are some of the most common reasons why women may choose to surgically enhance their breasts. Breast augmentation and breast lift are the most frequently performed cosmetic procedures on the breast.
In breast augmentation, enlargement of the breast is accomplished using either implants or the patient’s own fat. Implants are clear shells that may be filled with saltwater solution or silicone. They come in varying sizes and shapes. There are different approaches to placing the implant as well. Incision locations can be:
- Peri-areolar, or around the outline of the areola.
- Inframammary, or along the crease of the breast.
- Transaxillary, or through the armpit.
- Transumbilical, or through the belly button.
Using one’s own fat for breast enlargement starts with a procedure called liposuction, which is the removal of excess fat from other parts of the body. After the fat is collected, it is rid of impurities and then injected into the breast. This option suits those who do not wish to have foreign materials placed inside their bodies.
Deformities such as tubular breasts may also be corrected using breast augmentation. Tubular breasts are characterized by small, droopy breasts and a narrow base. Aside from placement of an implant, the surgeon cuts the breast tissue to release the tightness and make the base wider.
Breast implants are not lifelong devices. They may rupture or you may develop capsular contracture, which is the hardening of scar tissue around the implant. If these complications occur, you may need to get another surgery to replace or remove your implants.
While a breast augmentation enlarges the breast, a breast lift, also called mastopexy, raises the breast by repositioning the nipple and removing excess skin. Breast lifts can be done using three techniques. If there is only a small amount of sagging, removal of excess skin around the outline of the areola may accomplish the desired result. This technique is called a doughnut lift. If your nipples are just at or slightly below the level of your breast fold, your surgeon may recommend a lollipop lift. This type of lift involves a doughnut lift and a vertical incision from the bottom edge of the areola to the crease. If you have a lot of excess skin, your surgeon may recommend an anchor lift. This technique is similar to the lollipop lift, but it also involves a crescent-shaped incision along the breast fold to be able to remove more excess skin. Sometimes loss of breast volume accompanies sagging. If this is the case, an augmentation can be performed in combination with the lift procedure.
Because nerves around the nipple are cut during surgery and need time to heal, temporary loss of sensation in this area is common after having a breast lift. Sensation is usually regained after several weeks to a few months. Although uncommon, loss of sensation may also be permanent, especially if a significant amount of tissue around the nipple was removed.
Both breast augmentation and breast lift are typically done in an outpatient facility and do not require a hospital stay. Following surgery, you should apply a cold compress over your breasts for the first 24 hours and keep your upper body elevated -- even during sleep -- for the first few days. You will also be given a special type of bra to wear while you are recovering. Using cold compresses, staying elevated, and wearing the special bra help minimize swelling and pain. Strenuous activities like running and working out should be avoided for four to six weeks, but light exercise may be started about one week after your procedure.