Breast augmentation (enlargement)

Breast augmentation, also known as a breast enlargement, is a surgical procedure which permanently increases the size and enhances the shape of the breasts, by the insertion of implants.

There is a wide variety of breast implants available, and your surgeon will give you advice on the size, shape and type of implants appropriate for you.

The silicone gel breast implants we use at Circle are by Allergan, and are manufactured to the highest standards. These implants have a lifelong warranty against rupture or leak.

Breast augmentation is carried out under a general anaesthetic and usually requires a one night stay in hospital.

Breast implants can be positioned either under the breast tissue or deeper behind the chest muscle on which the breast lies. Your cosmetic surgeon will advise which is the most appropriate for you. The breast implants are inserted through an incision made in the crease under the breast (the most common technique), around the lower edge of the nipple, or in the armpit. Once surgery is complete, the incision is closed with dissolving sutures.

Following the breast enlargement procedure you will be taken from the operating theatre into the recovery suite where you will be looked after until you are fully awake. After this, you will return to your room, where nursing staff will check your dressings and monitor your pulse and blood pressure at regular intervals.

The anaesthetist will prescribe painkillers and you should take these regularly for the first week or so. Pain can slow down your recovery, so it is important to discuss any discomfort with the nursing staff.

You may have drainage tubes in your breasts - these have bottles attached to them and are there to drain away any excess fluid. The drains are removed before you are discharged home.

There may be a drip in one of your arms - this is to keep you well hydrated. This will be removed when you are able to drink a satisfactory amount.

You will have wound dressings and a supportive sports-style bra (non-underwired) in place.

After breast augmentation you are likely to have some pain/discomfort, swelling and bruising in your breasts. These are temporary and should subside after the first few weeks. It may take several months for the shape of your breasts to settle.

Your surgeon will advise you as to how long you are required to wear your supportive bra and whether it is to be worn day and night. You must avoid wearing an under-wired bra until you are informed otherwise.

You will receive a post-operative telephone call from the specialist nurse one to two days after your discharge home to ascertain your progress and well-being. You will also receive a follow-up appointment at which your surgeon will assess your progress and give advice on when you can resume your normal activities.

You must avoid strenuous exercise, heavy lifting, swimming and vacuuming for four to six weeks after surgery. You should only resume driving when you are confident that you can safely perform an emergency stop without experiencing discomfort.

The length of time you will need to take off work will depend on your type of employment, but is usually one to two weeks.

Breast augmentation is a commonly performed and generally safe procedure. However, all surgery carries an element of risk.

The possible complications of any surgery can include an unexpected reaction to a general anaesthetic, excessive bleeding, infection and developing a blood clot (usually in a vein in the lower leg, known as a deep vein thrombosis).

You will be left with scars following your surgery. Initially they will be red and slightly raised, but they should gradually soften and fade over the following months. Some patients experience changes in sensation in different parts of the breast including the nipple - these areas may become more or less sensitive than before. These changes are temporary, but can last up to six months. Occasionally, numbness can be permanent.

Capsular Contracture is a potential complication - this is when a layer of scar tissue forms around the implant causing the breast to feel hard. The implant may need to be removed and replaced.

Some implants can block x-rays during a mammogram - always tell the radiographer that you have breast implants.

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Circle Health, 32 Welbeck St, Marylebone, London W1G 8EU