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The pros and cons of breast implants

Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon Glenn Vallecillos, M.D., F.A.C.S. believes that aesthetic medicine is more than a branch of plastic surgery; it is the ultimate marriage of anatomic form and function with psychological satiety. He has been ...

Your guide to going bigger

No two women have the same body, and similarly, no two breasts are the same even when they belong to the same woman. Breast augmentation, therefore, is as much an art as it is a science. Determining what’s right for you – from the size and type of implant to its placement within the body – starts here.

Woman contemplating breast implant

How big should I go?

Breast augmentation is not one-size-fits-all. Your best friend may be rocking double D’s, but your figure may be better suited for a C cup. Take your existing body proportions into account, communicate your desired outcome to your surgeon and consider his or her feedback before making a decision about implant size.

Tip: Breast implant sizes are usually discussed in terms of milliliters, referring to the volume of silicone gel or saline within the implant shell. If you’re unsure, ask your surgeon to “translate” these numbers to an approximate cup size.

Silicone or saline?

Breast implants may be filled with either silicone gel (FDA-approved for women 22 years of age or older) or a sterile saline solution (FDA-approved for women 18 years of age or older). While most patients prefer silicone gel, as it moves and feels very much akin to natural breast tissue, the choice is up to you. One way to find the best fit for you is to hold samples of each kind during your consultation.

Can implants pose health risks?

Tip: Some surgeons believe placing the implant below the pectoral muscle and using a textured implant shell can help minimize the incidence of capsular contracture. Discuss these options with your surgeon during your pre-operative consultation.

Breast augmentation with implants is a safe and widely performed procedure, with over 300,000 surgeries performed last year, according to the 2011 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report (American Society of Plastic Surgeons). That being said, all surgeries carry some risk.

The most common side effect of breast augmentation with implants is a condition known as “capsular contracture.” This refers to the growth of firm, internal scar tissue around the implant, which can cause hardening and physical distortion of the breast. The causes are unknown, and the condition requires surgery to replace the affected implant.

Are there alternatives to implants?

Although implants remain the most popular technique for breast augmentation, you may wish to consider fat transfer. Fat transfer breast augmentation is a surgical technique in which the patient’s own fat is removed via liposuction from donor areas on the body (usually the abdomen or inner thighs), purified and then injected into the breasts.

Fat transfer breast augmentation eliminates many of the risks posed by implants, including capsular contracture. However, it cannot provide the same range of sizes and results are usually far more subtle than those afforded by breast implants.

If you're interested in both liposuction and breast augmentation, fat transfer can be a cost-effective way to achieve both. Talk to your surgeon about the possibility of a combination procedure.

What if I change my mind?

Although breast implants should be considered a long-term investment, we understand that women’s minds and bodies change over time. Even if you’ve undergone breast augmentation, surgical options do exist – such as breast implant removal and breast revision – to address your needs down the line.

Finally, remember that breast augmentation – as with any plastic surgery – should be performed only for you. Your health and happiness are paramount. Everything else will follow.

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