A breast implant is a prosthesis used to change the size, shape, and contour of a woman's breast. In reconstructive plastic surgery, breast implants can be placed to restore a natural looking breast mound for post–mastectomy breast reconstruction patients or to correct congenital defects and deformities of the chest wall. They are also used cosmetically to enhance or enlarge the appearance of the breast through breast augmentation surgery.
Breast augmentation is one of the most common cosmetic surgery procedures in the country. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 307,000 women had breast implants placed in 2011. Of course, all of these surgical cases were different and the women chose the procedure for a variety of reasons.
Breast implant surgery can be performed in a hospital, surgery center. Breast implant surgery patients may have to stay overnight in the hospital (inpatient surgery) or may be able to go home afterward (outpatient surgery). Most women receive general anesthesia for this surgery. Breast implant surgery can last from one to several hours depending on the procedure and personal circumstances.
If the surgery is done in a hospital, the length of the hospital stay will vary based on the type of surgery, the development of any complications after surgery and your general health. The length of the hospital stay may also depend on the type of coverage your insurance provides.
If you are undergoing breast implant surgery for reconstruction, you will also need to speak with your surgeon about your personal circumstances, including being treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, as these can affect your risks of complication and the appearance of the reconstructed breast. The surgeon should also speak to you about the amount of breast tissue that will remain after surgery and future screening for breast implant ruptures and breast cancer.
During the consultation be sure to ask the surgeon for a copy of the patient labeling for the breast implant s/he plans to use. You have the right to request this information, and your physician is expected to provide it. Be sure to read the patient labeling entirely prior to surgery. It will provide you with information specific to your breast implants, including how to take care of them. Make sure you read and understand the informed consent form before you sign it.
Breast implant manufacturers are currently conducting clinical studies to evaluate new types of breast implants and to understand the long term experiences of women who receive breast implants. If you are interested in participating in a clinical study, be sure to ask your surgeon what specific steps you will need to take.
Once you have been given anaesthesia and it has taken effect, the surgeon will make an incision (cut) in one of the following areas:
along the underside of your breast (inframammary)
under your arm (transaxillary)
through the mastectomy scar (for reconstruction)
The FDA-approved labeling warns surgeons NOT to place breast implants through the belly-button (peri-umbilical approach). The location of the incision can affect how visible the scars are, as well as any complications you may experience after surgery.