Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation is a surgery to increase the size or change the shape of your breasts.

This breast augmentation procedure may be done for:

  • Cosmetic reasons — to increase breast size, make breasts symmetric or improve breast shape and/or contour
  • Reconstructive reasons — to increase the size of breasts that have been injured or after surgery, such as following a mastectomy for breast cancer

Before a Breast Augmentation

Your doctor may ask you to provide a picture of a woman whose breasts you want yours to resemble. Computer imaging can also help determine desired results.

Your doctor may do the following:

  • Physical exam, including a careful breast exam
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG)
  • Mammogram
  • Take photos for comparison

Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may need to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.

Description of the Augmentation   

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Your surgeon makes a cut in the skin either:

  • Underneath your breast
  • Alongside the area around the nipple
  • In your underarm
  • In your belly button

Your doctor places the implants through the incision. The location may be between the skin/breast tissue and the muscle, underneath the connective tissue of the muscle or under the muscle itself. 

The implant can contain silicone gel, or it can be filled with salt water after it's in place. You may have a drainage tube around the implant.

Your surgeon closes the incision with stitches and wraps it with bandage. 

The procedure takes about 1-2 hours. You may have some bruising and tenderness of the breasts for several weeks after surgery. 

Average Hospital Stay  

It may be possible to leave the hospital or surgery center on the same day of the procedure, or your doctor may ask you stay overnight in the hospital. 

When to Call Your Doctor  

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding or discharge at the incision site
  • Discoloration in either breast
  • Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medications you were given after surgery, or which last for more than two days after discharge from the hospital
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
  • Implants grow hard, or you believe that they are leaking
  • Cough, shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves or legs
  • Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, rash or other new symptoms

Possible Complications of Breast Augmentation

Your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Abnormal scarring
  • Painful and/or restricted arm and shoulder motion
  • Uneven appearance of breasts, either due to position or size
  • Difficulty breastfeeding
  • Implant hardens, ruptures, leaks or deflates
  • Implant may make cancer detection with mammogram and/or self-exam more difficult
  • Decreased sensation
  • The need to have more surgeries, including having the implants removed

Smoking may increase the risk of complications.

This is an elective surgery. If you have any illnesses or you are in poor health, you should not have this procedure.

Silicone-filled breast implants are not designed to last a lifetime. They typically need to be removed within 10 years. Your risk for complications increases the longer you have the implants.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.