Womens Health

Plastic Surgery: Breast Augmentation

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, breast augmentation surgery ranks as the third most popular form of cosmetic surgery, with more than a quarter of a million women opting for breast implants in 2005. But what are some of the health risks and dangers of plastic surgery implants? Before deciding to undergo the procedure, consider what breast augmentation surgery would entail.

What is Breast Augmentation?

Breast augmentation is a type of plastic surgery that has its modern roots in the silicone implants of the 1960s. The first breast augment surgery took place in 1962, when plastic surgeons used a breast implant filled with a thick, viscous silicone gel to reshape and increase the size of a woman’s breasts.

Today, breast implants are still used for the purpose of beauty enhancement. Breast augmentation is considered to have the following potential benefits:

  • enhancing breast size and appearance (breast enlargements)
  • adjusting any changes due to breast size fluctuations during pregnancy
  • reconstructive surgery following breast surgery for conditions such as breast cancer
  • correcting unequal or asymmetrical breasts

Types of Breast Implants

In the United States, two types of breast implants are most commonly available. These are silicone implants and saline implants.

The early silicone implants of the 1960s had come under medical scrutiny in the 1990s following links to several plastic surgery side effects including autoimmune deficiencies. This was especially dangerous since these early forms of silicone implants were prone to leakage and breakage. For this reason, silicone implants were restricted to breast reconstruction and breast replacement surgeries, for which they were considered safer.

In 2006, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved new types of silicone gel filled breast implants. These provide the soft and natural look and feel of silicone implants, without the apparent side effects of the previous line of gels. This relatively safer approach is based on the thicker and more cohesive consistency of the newly developed silicone gel, which fills the implant’s silicone elastomer shell. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that all breast implants carry certain risks and side effects.

A saline breast implant uses a salt-water solution known as a saline filler inside a silicone elastomer shell. The saline solution is similar to fluids that are found in the body, thus enabling it to absorb the solution in case of a leak. This type of breast implant procedure involves the insertion of an empty implant shell into the body, which is then filled with the saline solution through a self-sealing valve.

Side Effects and Risks of Breast Implants

While these breast augmentation procedures are considered relatively safe in comparison to those of older generations, there are nonetheless some potential risks, side effects, and disadvantages associated with plastic surgery breast implants. These include the following:

  • Need for a second surgery, whether to replace implants or remove them. In clinical trials, one in four women who receives a saline implant required a second surgery within five years
  • Implants can rupture due to injuries or tiny cracks that develop over time. This may result in a change in breast shape and may even pose potential medical risks
  • Implants may deflate creating a noticeable difference in size or appearance such as sagging
  • Scar tissue may form a capsule around the breast and eventually constrict the implant. This can potentially lead to pain and disfigurement and will require surgery. This is known as capsular contracture
  • Infection that is not treatable by antibiotics and requires the removal of breast implants
  • Hematoma, a condition in which blood and other fluids forms around the implant causing pain, infection and other health complications.
  • Pain following surgery can be severe which may indicate a bigger problem such as implant rupture or capsular contracture
  • Decreased nipple or breast sensation

In addition, while there are conflicting views about a connection between breast implants and breast cancer, it is relatively agreed upon that breast implants can interfere with mammogram screenings and require a more complicated breast cancer screening procedure including ultrasounds and MRI. Implants can often obscure the appearance of cancer cells.

Speak to your doctor or health care provider for more information about the potential side effects and medical risks associated with breast augmentation.

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