What are the risks associated with breast augmentation surgery?

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July 12, 2013

There are two main issues involving breast implants that prospective patients must be aware of and be comfortable with. First, as mentioned previously, all implants need to be replaced periodically, perhaps as often as every ten years. Second, breast implants can become hard on one or both sides in approximately five percent of women. This condition, called capsular contracture, is due to thickening of the normally thin scar tissue layer that surrounds the implant. The implant itself is not affected. The cause is unknown, although low grade infection and blood in the pocket (hematoma) are suspected. Capsular contracture occurs randomly and there are no preventive measures or known risk factors other than smoking.

Capsular contracture can result in breast asymmetry because the affected side becomes rounder and higher. The condition can cause tightness and discomfort when more severe in degree. Significant asymmetry or discomfort usually warrants a second surgical procedure to strip out the scar layer and change the implant. This solves the problem most of the time although it can recur, most commonly in women who are affected by the process on both sides. There is a new, more aggressive surgical remedy using acellular dermal matrix (ADM) available for instances when capsular contracture is resistant to conventional surgical treatment. Read more about this option on our capsular contracture website: https://www.capsularcontracturecures.com

Breast augmentation does not affect the ability to breast feed because the implant is located behind the gland. The duct system within the gland is not disturbed, except to a slight degree when an areolar edge incision is used.

Breast augmentation can result in a loss of nipple sensation or sensation in the lower part of the breast skin. This can be either transient or permanent. The location of the incision has no relation to the potential for sensory loss. Rather, loss of sensation is due to the stretching of sensory nerves that can occur in the course of making the implant pocket. Generally speaking, the larger the implant, the more the nerves are stretched, and the greater chance of sensory loss. Fortunately, this does not occur in most women.

All research to date indicates that the risk of breast cancer is not increased in women who have breast augmentation. However, breast implants can make mammograms more difficult to read because the implant obscures some of the tissue and also compresses it. Most experienced radiologists can adequately assess the gland despite this. Self examination is not hindered in any way as a result of breast augmentation.

Some women with breast implants have reported symptoms similar to those of immune system diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosis, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and other arthritis-like conditions. There has been no scientific evidence to date that shows a cause and effect relationship between breast implants and any of these diseases.

Acute complications from breast augmentation are unusual. Infection or bleeding problems can occur and may require additional surgery. Potential aesthetic problems include implant asymmetry and a palpable implant edge, the latter most often seen in very thin women with saline implants. Most asymmetry problems are minor and do not require correction. A palpable implant edge is often a normal finding, does not pose a health hazard, and typically does not require treatment. Sometimes the implants can ultimately settle out too low and require surgical revision.


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