What are Breast Augmentation Risks and Complications?
Most of the time, cosmetic surgery procedures go smoothly, the patient recovers fully, and everything works out perfectly. However, despite all the precautions clinics and surgical staff take to prevent complications, they can still occur on rare occasions. So as with any surgery, breast augmentation comes with certain risks. It's also possible to develop complications after surgery. Before you have any surgical procedure, it's important to educate yourself about these potential risks.
If, after reading this page, you still have questions, we invite you to schedule a free consultation, and we'll be happy to talk with you about the procedure, and provide you with more information.
Breast Augmentation Risks and Complications: Medical
At TCC, your safety is our highest priority. We take every precaution possible to ensure our state-of-the-art facility not only makes you feel comfortable, but assures you that your procedure is being performed in a sterile and technologically advanced environment.
However, complications may still arise either during or after any kind of surgery. Medical breast augmentation risks and complications include, but are not limited to:
As with any invasive surgical procedure, breast augmentation carries a risk of infection, which is caused by bacteria or microorganisms entering the surgical site through the incisions. If infection occurs, symptoms will most often appear within a few days of the procedure.
Symptoms include, but are not limited to: pain, itching, redness, swelling, oozing discharge, and the site being hot to the touch. Infections are particularly difficult to treat if a breast implant is present. In severe cases where antibiotics are ineffective at eradicating the infection, the breast implant may have to be removed and replaced at a later date with another breast augmentation surgery. This is a rare occurrence.
After your breast augmentation, if you notice any odd symptoms—listed here or not—do not hesitate to contact us immediately.
Excessive movement of, or pressure on your breasts may cause incisions to reopen, delaying healing, and putting your health at risk. This is not a common occurrence, and many precautions are taken to ensure the proper closure of the breast tissue, including sutures, gauze, and a surgical bra.
An open incision can lead to infection, extrusion (when skin parts at the incision, and the breast implant becomes visible), and increased scarring. This is part of why post-surgical care is so important. Should your incisions open during your breast augmentation recovery, contact us immediately, or go to your nearest emergency room.
Also known as a blood clot, a hematoma occurs when blood collects near the surgical site. The pooling blood causes swelling, pain, and discomfort. Bruising is also a common sign of a hematoma, and can appear blue, purple or black in color. Small hematomas may be absorbed by the body, but a severe hematoma will often require medical attention.
While hematomas are more likely to occur after surgery, it's important to know that they can also occur any time there is an injury to your breast. If you notice excessive swelling, pain, or bruising on or around your breasts, please contact us immediately.
Reaction to Anesthesia
During any surgery that requires the use of general anesthesia, there are inherent risks of respiratory or cardiac arrest. Although this is rare, your condition will be monitored the entire time you are under anesthesia to ensure your safety and health.
You may also experience an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. If this occurs, your surgeon may prescribe medication, such as something to alleviate nausea and vomiting.
In order to help prevent these anesthesia reactions, it's important that you disclose your entire medical history, including allergies, prior to surgery.
Breast Pain and Change in Sensation
Pain in the nipple or breast is common for the first few weeks following breast augmentation. However, prolonged and/or intense pain may be indicative of infection or other complications, and you should be seen by a doctor immediately.
You may also experience an increase or decrease of sensation in the nipple or breast area following breast augmentation. This change may be temporary or permanent. In the case of permanent sensation change, this may be due to nerve damage, and may ultimately affect comfort during nursing and sexual activity.
Breast Augmentation Risks and Complications: Aesthetic
Some problems that may arise are not life-threatening, and don't require medical attention, but affect the cosmetic results of your breast augmentation. Aesthetic breast augmentation risks and complications include, but are not limited to:
Breast Implant Rupture or Deflation
If a hole or tear in the breast implant shell occurs, it may cause the implant to rupture (silicone) or deflate (saline). This is a rare occurrence, but can be caused by a preexisting manufacturer defect, a tear inadvertently created during surgery, or too much pressure put on the breasts after surgery.
It's normal for scar tissue to form after any type of surgery, including breast augmentation. Capsular contracture occurs following a breast augmentation when scar tissue forms a capsule around the breast implant, and then contracts, constricting the implant. This scar tissue formation is measured in four grades, with grade I being a soft, normal-looking breast, and grade IV being a hard, painful, abnormally shaped breast.
Breast Implant Displacement
When placing an implant, a surgeon will create a "pocket" in the breast tissue to accommodate the implant. If the pocket is too large, or the implant simply doesn't sit properly in the pocket, this is called implant displacement.
This can also be caused by everyday activities such as exercise or other strenuous movements. If the displacement is minor, and doesn't cause a dramatic change in the appearance of your breast, it shouldn't be cause for concern. However, if the implant shifts to a degree where it is abnormally out of place, notify your surgeon immediately.
Another type of breast implant displacement, "bottoming out" occurs then the tissues supporting the breast implant fail, and the implant slips downward. This complication is more common with subglandular breast implant placement, though it can happen with submuscular implant placement as well.
When a woman’s natural breast tissue begins to sag, but the implant stays in place, the natural breast tissue can slip over the implant. This creates a crease where the implant sits, and a second crease where the natural breast tissue hangs over it. The result is a "double bubble" appearance.
This complication only occurs with submuscular breast implant placement. Conversely, subglandular implant placement avoids this complication by filling out the sagging skin.
If your breasts have already begun to sag, you may consider a breast lift in conjunction with breast augmentation to avoid this complication, and to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing result.
After being placed inside your breast, it's possible for the outer shell of an implant to become wrinkled. If these folds become visible through the skin, they will appear as breast rippling.
Saline implants are more susceptible to this wrinkling, but it can happen with any type of implant. However, it's uncommon as a thick layer of breast tissue will cover the implant.
Are Breast Implants Safe?
In a word, yes. However, this doesn't mean they're free of risk. It simply means that should a complication related to the implant itself occur (rupture, for example), it will not put your health in jeopardy.
If a saline breast implant ruptures, your body will simply absorb and expel the salt water. But because you would then have a deflated implant—and therefore, a deflated breast—a second surgery may be required to remove or replace the damaged implant.
Because silicone breast implants used to be made with silicone in liquid form, a rupture was a health emergency. The liquid silicone could leak out into the body, and be impossible to remove, thereby causing numerous health problems, and still requiring a second surgery to remove the damaged implant.
Today, these implants are made of a thick silicone gel that cannot leak, even when ruptured. If you were to cut one of these implants in half, what you would see inside would look similar to the inside of a gummy bear. For this reason, they've become known as "gummy bear implants."
Breast Implants and Cancer
While the risk of developing breast cancer as a result of breast implants is extremely low, reports in the scientific community have suggested a possible association between anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) and breast implants.
The risk of developing ALCL caused by breast implants is estimated to be 1 in 1 million for smooth breast implants, and 1 in 300,000 for textured breast implants. We encourage you to have mammograms on a regular basis, and always remember to inform your technician that you've had breast augmentation.
For more information, please talk to your surgeon.