Breast augmentation is the most common surgery in the United States but like any surgery, no matter how routine, cosmetic or not, there is always the potential for risks and complications. The likelihood is very rare, however, breast augmentation is no exception.
If you are considering breast augmentation or any surgical procedure for that matter, it is highly likely that you have some concerns about the potential complications that could occur when you go under the knife.
It is important to recognize that while the FDA has approved both silicone gel and saline breast implants as safe for implantation, there are, nonetheless, specific risks that come with breast augmentation surgery. We encourage patients to consider the risks carefully, but also to understand that any reputable board-certified plastic surgeon will take every precaution to minimize them with the patient’s safety and care as the utmost importance.
Unfortunately, complications do happen and while they are a rare occurrence, at Austin-Weston, The Center for Cosmetic Surgery, our board-certified plastic surgeons see it as a personal responsibility to patients not to sugarcoat or downplay the possibilities.
So, let’s consider the most common complications in a measured way. Just as patients take precautions to avoid complications after breast surgery, the doctor will take precautions too. With thousands of successful surgeries under our belt, we’ve learned what works and what does not, which has led us to emphasize certain aspects of a patient’s post-operative care to minimize risk.
Immediately after surgery, the biggest risk is excess bleeding. Therefore, on the first day after surgery, we see you back in the office to check you for any evidence of blood in the implant pocket. If we find that there is bleeding, we take you back to one of our operating rooms, treat you, and you’re good to go – typically in about 20 minutes.
It’s one of the great things about having our state-of-the-art facility, fully equipped with operating rooms and a full-time surgical staff on hand. You aren't inconvenienced by having to travel to a hospital or coordinating schedules around the operating room. Our patients are our primary focus.
2. Incision Issues
Infection can occur with any surgery, whether cosmetic or medically necessary. Most infections resulting from surgery appear within a few days to weeks after the operation. However, there is a possibility of infection to occur any time after surgery. In addition, breast and nipple piercing procedures may increase the possibility of infection. Infections and tissue with an implant present are harder to treat infections and tissue without an implant. And infinite if an infection does not respond to antibiotics implant may have to be remitted and another implant maybe place after the faction is resolved and cleared up.
At your one-week post-op appointment, your doctor will clean the incision (using special tape to help minimize scarring) and check to make sure you are healing properly. Most breast augmentation stitches are internal and will dissolve on their own. It goes without saying, that it’s critical you go to all your post-op appointments!
3. High Implants
In addition to bleeding and wound healing issues, in rare cases, implants can sit up too high after surgery. This is often an indication of an early capsular contracture. So, during your one-month check-up, if your surgeon notices that the implants aren’t coming down, he will prescribe oral medication that softens the early scar and typically allows the implant to settle down into place.
4. Capsular Contracture
At the three-month mark, the risk of capsular contracture and implant malposition can occur. Don’t let the complicated medical terms scare you off just yet; these concepts behind these complications are easily explained.
Any time any implant is placed in the body, the body heals itself by building a wall of tissue around that implant. This is just as true for hip implants as it is for breast implants. In most cases, this “capsule” or scar tissue is thin and not noticeable. But in some cases, bacteria grow on the implant and as your body attempts to fight off the infection, a hardening of the capsule can occur. In most cases, this complication is usually preceded by discomfort, and if your surgeon catches it in this stage, medications can treat it. So, if you experience any unexplained breast tenderness months after surgery, the best plan is to call and talk to your doctor. Again, if we catch the process early before the breast hardens, it can likely be treated with antibiotics.
5. Implant Malposition
Much like capsular contracture (mentioned above), implant malposition can occur and become detectable at three-months post-op. Although our hope is always for the breast and the implant to “read” as a single unit, occasionally an implant can drop below the breast or move toward the armpit. The way resolution for surgically fixing this will depend on the exact circumstances and will vary per patient, but our surgeons will go over your treatment options carefully. The good news is that these complications happen so rarely in our practice that we cover any surgical costs you might have otherwise incurred.
6. Implant Rupture
The usual cause of an implant rupture is when the implant folds over and ends up rubbing up against itself, causing a hole or tear in the shell of the implant that allows silicone gel filler material to leak from the shell.
Two types of implant ruptures can occur:
- Intracapsular: When the rupture occurs inside the scar tissue capsule surrounding the implant
- Extracapsular: When the rupture outside the scar tissue surrounding the implant
When it comes to implant rupture, it’s important to recognize that there is a lot of misinformation floating around online. You are not likely to rupture an implant during a car accident or mammogram. Reputable surgeons will tell you that we don’t even have good statistics on the rate of silicone implant rupture because often when it happens, the silicone stays in the pocket and requires no further intervention. We call these “silent” ruptures.
We do know, however, that saline implants rupture at a 0.5% rate per year.
The FDA encourages women to have MRI examinations every 2-5 years to detect the possibility of a silent rupture and ensure breast implants are fully intact. Your surgeon can avoid the risk of rupture by selecting an implant specific to each patient’s anatomy. To make this easier, implant manufacturers today make many different sizes and shapes making it easier to custom-fit to your body.
The bottom line is that the risk of implant rupture has been greatly reduced – even over the past decade. The key to reducing the risk of implant rupture is contacting your doctor immediately if you experience anything unusual.
7. Breastfeeding after Breast Augmentation
Women very rarely experience breastfeeding complications after a breast augmentation procedure. The most common cause here is nipple numbness. When the nipple is numb, suckling, which normally sends the signal to have the milk drop down, may not be enough to stimulate milk flow.
On average, there's roughly a 90% chance you will be able to breastfeed after surgery, on the assumption that you were able to breastfeed before the surgery.
Typically, the breast implant is inserted under the muscle (it can be placed above the muscle as well) but doing so should not affect the direct relationship between the breast glands and the nipple. A perioral incision (around the colored portion surrounding the nipple) has a higher chance of difficulty breastfeeding.
However, we have also seen even women experiencing nipple numbness, who are completely able to breastfeed. Because breast implant surgery does not interrupt the ducts or glands that carry breast milk, breastfeeding is perfectly possible in the clear majority of cases.
How to Minimize Breast Augmentation Risks
While all medical procedures involve some level of risk, a breast augmentation no exception, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of complications before and after surgery. But there are several steps you can take to increase your odds of having a successful procedure:
Select a board-certified plastic surgeon.
One of the most important ways to reduce risk is to select a board-certified plastic surgeon to ensure that your doctors have extensive surgical training, has passed rigorous testing and is current on all the latest surgical techniques and advancements of patient safety. It’s best to choose a doctor with both general surgical training and experience specifically with plastic surgery.
The skilled surgeons at Austin-Weston have performed thousands of breast augmentation procedures, with more than 75 years of combined experience, and voted “top doctors” and “best of” Northern Virginia and Washington DC.
Do your due diligence and research beforehand.
Become an educated consumer by researching your plastic surgeon, the surgical facility, and the procedure itself. Know what to expect from the beginning of your cosmetic surgery journey, to ensure you are fully prepared and comfortable with your decision.
Never hesitate to ask questions along the way.
Arrive at your consultation with a list of questions for your surgeon. Our surgeons and expert staff are more than happy to answer all questions to your satisfaction and encourage patients to schedule as many consultation appointments needed until you are completely comfortable with your decision to commit to surgery.
Download our consultation checklist for a list of suggested questions and suggestions to discuss at your consultation to ensure you are as thorough as possible.
Patient Safety is a Team Effort
When you’re considering surgery, no matter how routine, it’s always smart to understand the risks involved. At Austin-Weston, The Center for Cosmetic Surgery, we encourage all patients to be their own best health advocates. Our surgeons are here to answer any questions and to ensure that your procedure goes as smoothly as possible.
It’s important to remember that high standards of superior care, safety, and successful results are the product of the patient, the surgeon, and staff working in tandem to ensure you have the best experience possible.
Austin-Weston, The Center for Cosmetic Surgery has been in practice for almost 40 years during which we’ve performed a record number of breast augmentation surgeries, transforming the lives of our patients and giving them the confidence they deserve.
If you live in Northern Virginia or Washington DC and considering cosmetic surgery, contact us when you’re ready to schedule a complimentary consultation at (703) 854-9841 or submit a form online to request an appointment.
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