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Breast Augmentation

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

Reasons for Breast Augmentation 

This 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


Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a 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.

Before a Breast Augmentation

Your doctor may ask you to provide a picture of a woman whose breasts you want yours to resemble. Your doctor may also ask you to look through an album of breast sizes and shapes to help the doctor understand the outcome you desire. Computer imaging may also be used to 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.

Leading up to your procedure:

  • The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • Your doctor may ask you to shower the morning of your procedure and give you a special antibacterial soap to use.
  • Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
  • Arrange for help at home after returning from the hospital.

Will There Be Anesthesia?

Your surgeon may use local anesthesia, but general anesthesia is more common. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep. With local anesthesia, the selected area will be numb.

Description of the Augmentation   

The surgeon will make a cut in the skin either underneath your breast, alongside the area around the nipple, in your underarm, or in your belly button. An implant or prosthesis will be placed through the incision. The implant can contain silicone gel or can be filled with salt water after it is placed. The surgeon may place the implant between the skin/breast tissue and the muscle, underneath the connective tissue of the muscle, or under the muscle itself. You may or may not have a drainage tube placed around the implant. The surgeon will close the incision with stitches and bandage it. The same procedure may be repeated for the other breast.

The procedure will take about 1-2 hours. You may have some bruising and tenderness of the breasts for several weeks after surgery. Talk to your doctor about medication to help manage the pain.

Average Hospital Stay  

This procedure may be done in the hospital or surgery center. 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. Talk to your doctor about your options.

Post-procedure Care    

After the procedure:

  • You will wear a special bra or bandage to put pressure on the breasts. This will help to support your breasts and decrease the chance of bleeding.
  • Your doctor may advise you to massage or move your implants.

Be sure that you follow-up with your doctor. For silicone gel implants, you will need routine MRI scan screenings to check for tears or holes in the implant. The screenings are typically done three years after surgery and every two years after that.

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

In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


Call 434.243.3675.


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.

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