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Breast implant (Mammaplasty)

  • Last modified date:
    16 May 2007


To change the shape of and/or enlarge the breasts, or repair breasts after surgery or trauma.

The procedure:

This procedure should be carried out by a surgeon with relevant skills and experience in an establishment registered with the Healthcare Commission.

Breast implants involve surgery and the treatment normally takes around one hour. The procedure usually involves a general anaesthetic, although some surgeons use a combination of local anaesthetic and sedation. The surgeon makes a small cut underneath the armpit, beneath the nipple, underneath the breast or in the abdomen before inserting the implant.  The cuts are then stitched up. Most surgeons will require you to stay overnight at the hospital or clinic.

Breast implants are made from a silicone elastomer shell filled with either saline or silicone.

After the procedure you will be advised to take a week off work to rest and to avoid lifting and physical exercise for a month. It will be important to support the breast well by wearing a form bra or a sports bra. The sutures may be dissolvable but if not they will be removed after 7 - 14 days. It is important to keep the incision sites out of sunlight for approximately one year.

The results:

The breasts should be larger, and asymmetric breasts can be evened up. The results will be permanent, but further surgery may be needed if problems arise. All breast implant surgery will leave some scarring.

The risks:

General risks associated with surgery - see Considering cosmetic surgery?

The most common risk with breast implants is capsular contracture, although the risk is low. This happens when the layer of scar tissue that the body normally grows around the implant contracts, causing the implant to lose its original shape and softness. Capsular contracture can sometimes be painful, and the implant may need to be removed and replaced. It is advisable to check whether your surgeon or provider offer any warranty to cover the cost of further surgery in this event.

Other risks associated with breast implants include infection, blood loss, movement or splitting (rupture or leakage) of the implant, creasing or rippling of the breast around the implant, and a loss of sensation in the breast. Breast implants may also affect your ability to breastfeed.

If the implant is infected or ruptures, it may have to be removed, which is not always a straightforward procedure. If you think the implant has ruptured you should contact your doctor immediately.

The length of time a breast implant lasts is unknown and may vary depending on an individual’s personal factors.

Before you start:

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency produces a leaflet for women considering breast implants. This gives further details of the procedure, including Information on the safety of various types of breast implant. See the useful links page for further details.

Most people choose to have breast implants because they think their breasts look too small - but this may be due to the structure and proportions of your body rather than your breasts. Before considering a breast implant, talk to your doctor about whether there are any alternatives.

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