Uncertainty and Risk with Breast Augmentation

Breast enlargement is relatively straightforward. But as with any operation, there are risks associated with surgery and specific complications associated with breast implant surgery.

The most common problem with breast implant surgery is capsular contracture, which occurs if the scar or capsule around the implant begins to tighten. This subsequent squeezing of the soft implant can cause the breast to feel hard. There are several treatments for capsular contracture sometimes requiring either removal or “scoring” of the scar tissue, or perhaps removal or replacement of the implant.

As with any surgical procedure, excessive bleeding following surgery may cause some pain and swelling. If excessive bleeding continues, you may need another operationd to control the bleeding and remove accumulated blood.

In seldom cases, women can develop an infection around an implant. This infection may occur at any time, but most commonly occurs within a week after surgery. The breast implant may need to be removed in some cases for several months until the infection clears and a new implant can then be inserted.

Occasionally, some women report that their nipples become oversensitive, under sensitive, or perhaps even numb. You may also notice small patches of numbness near your incisions. These symptoms usually disappear with time, but may be permanent in some patients.

There is no evidence that breast implants will affect fertility, pregnancy, or your ability to nurse. If, however, you have nursed a baby within the year before augmentation, you may produce milk for a few days after surgery. This may cause some discomfort, but can be treated with medication prescribed by Dr. Lesavoy.

Occasionally, breast implants may break or leak. Rupture may occur as a result of an injury or even from the normal compression and movement of your breast and implant, causing the synthetic shell to leak. If a saline-filled implant breaks, the implant will deflate in a few hours and the salt water will be harmlessly absorbed by the body.

However, If a break occurs in a gel-filled implant, one of two things may occur. If the shell breaks but the scar capsule around the implant does not, you may not even notice a change. If the scar capsule also breaks or tears, especially following extreme pressure, silicone gel may move into surrounding tissue, collecting in the breast and causing a new scar to form around it, or, it may migrate to another area of the body. There cu be a change in the shape or firmness of the breast. Both types of breaks may require a second operation and replacement of the leaking implant. Occasionally, it may not be possible to remove all of the silicone gel in the breast tissue if a rupture should occur.

Some women with breast implants have reported symptoms similar to diseases of the immune system, including scleroderma and other arthritis-like conditions. These symptoms may include joint pain or swelling, fever, fatigue, or breast pain. Research has not found a clear link between silicone breast implants and the symptoms of what doctors refer to as “connective-tissue disorders,” but the FDA has requested further study.

There is no evidence that breast implants cause breast cancer, but they may change the way mammography is done to detect cancer. When requesting a routine mammogram, be sure to go to a radiology center where technicians are experienced in the special techniques required to get a reliable x-ray of a breast with an implant. Additional views will also be required. Ultrasound examinations may be of benefit in some women with implants to detect breast lumps or to evaluate the implant itself.

While the majority of women do not experience these complications, you should discuss each of them with Dr. Lesavoy to make sure you understand the risks and consequences of  breast augmentation.

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