Demystifying Breast Augmentation Risks: An Essential Guide 

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A woman wearing a beige bra is adjusting the straps on the front. The scene, set against a plain, neutral background, evokes an image reminiscent of an essential breast augmentation guide.

Straightforward, medically-reviewed information on potential complications, factors affecting risk levels, and long-term considerations

The key risks of breast augmentation include scarring, loss of sensation, implant rupture/leaks, infections, and potential revision surgery needs. While rare, serious concerns are ALCL, and systemic “breast implant illness” symptoms.

So, you’re thinking about getting breast implants? 

Breast augmentation is one of the most popular cosmetic surgery procedures out there, and it can be a great way to boost your confidence and achieve the look you desire. 

But, as with any surgical procedure, there are potential risks and complications to be aware of before going under the knife.

What Are the Common Risks and Complications?

A Woman Flexing Her Breasts

Like any surgery, breast augmentation does come with some potential risks and complications. 

Here are some of the most common ones:

Scar Tissue Formation (Capsular Contracture)

One potential issue is the formation of thick, hard scar tissue around the implant, known as capsular contracture. This can distort the shape of the implant and cause pain or discomfort. The good news is that this is often treatable, but in some cases, it may require additional surgery.

Changes in Nipple/Breast Sensation

It’s possible to experience changes in nipple or breast sensation after augmentation surgery. This could include numbness, pain, or hypersensitivity. In most cases, these changes are temporary, but for some women, they can be permanent.

Implant Rupture and Leakage

Implant rupture or leakage is another potential complication, though it’s relatively rare. 

With silicone gel implants, a rupture could cause the silicone to leak into the body. Saline implants, on the other hand, will simply deflate if ruptured. In either case, the implant will need to be removed or replaced.

Infection Risks

Infection occurs in a small percentage of breast augmentation patients. If an infection does develop, it will likely require antibiotics and possibly the removal of the implant until the infection clears up.

Other common risks and complications include:

  • Hematoma or seroma (a collection of blood or fluid around the implant)
  • Implant malposition (the implant shifting or migrating from its original position)
  • Persistent breast pain after the initial recovery period
  • The need for revision surgery due to complications or dissatisfaction with the result

It’s important to note that while these risks exist, the vast majority of breast augmentation procedures are completed without any major complications.

What About Rare and Serious Risks?

In addition to the more common risks, there are a few rare but serious potential complications to be aware of:

Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL)

ALCL is a rare type of immune system cancer that has been linked to textured breast implants. While the overall risk is extremely low, it’s still something to discuss with your surgeon, especially if you’re considering textured implants.

Breast Implant Illness (BII)

Breast Implant Illness (BII) is a term used to describe a cluster of systemic symptoms that some patients attribute to their breast implants. 

These can include fatigue, memory loss, rash, joint pain, and more. However, it’s important to note that the scientific community is still debating whether BII is an actual condition directly caused by implants.

What Factors Affect My Risk Level?

Not all breast augmentation procedures carry the same level of risk. Several factors can influence your individual risk profile:

  • Implant Surface: Textured implants have been associated with a higher risk of certain complications, like ALCL and capsular contracture, compared to smooth implants.
  • Implant Fill Material: Silicone gel and saline implants come with slightly different sets of potential risks and complications.
  • Surgical Technique: The specific surgical techniques and protocols used by your plastic surgeon can impact your overall risk level.
  • Your Health Status: Your age, body type, and overall health can all play a role in determining your personal risk level.

Discussing these various factors with an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon is crucial for understanding and minimizing your individual risk profile.

Long-Term Considerations: What to Expect

Even if your breast augmentation procedure goes smoothly, there are some long-term considerations to keep in mind:

Breast Changes Over Time

It’s natural for breasts to change shape and position over time due to factors like aging, weight fluctuations, and gravity. Your implants may shift or sag, and you may experience stretching or thinning of the skin around the implants.

Implant Lifespan

Breast implants are not lifetime devices. Most manufacturers estimate that implants will need to be replaced every 10 to 20 years, though some may last even longer.

Monitoring for Silent Rupture

Since ruptures can sometimes occur without any obvious symptoms (known as a “silent rupture”), it’s recommended to get routine MRI screenings to check the integrity of your implants.

Mammograms and Cancer Screening

Having breast implants doesn’t increase your risk of breast cancer, but it can make routine mammograms and breast cancer screening a bit more challenging. Special techniques may be required to fully visualize all of your breast tissue.

Future Pregnancies/Breastfeeding

If you plan on becoming pregnant and/or breastfeeding after your breast augmentation, it’s important to discuss this with your surgeon. Implants may affect your ability to breastfeed, and pregnancy can cause changes in the size, shape, and position of your breasts and implants.

The Bottom Line

A Woman Flexing Her Breasts

At the end of the day, breast augmentation is a safe and effective procedure with a high satisfaction rate when performed by a qualified, board-certified plastic surgeon. While there are potential risks and complications to be aware of, the majority are minor and treatable.

Serious risks like ALCL and BII are extremely rare. And while it’s natural for some changes to occur over time, routine monitoring and occasional revision surgeries can help you maintain your desired results for years to come.

The most important thing is to thoroughly understand and weigh all of the potential risks and long-term considerations before deciding to undergo breast augmentation surgery. Be sure to consult with an experienced plastic surgeon who can assess your individual risk factors and help you make the most informed decision possible.

If you have any other questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team. We’re here to help guide you through every step of the process and ensure you feel completely comfortable and confident in your choice.