Home > Health Library > Breast Enlargement
Breast enlargement is surgery to make the breasts bigger and improve their shape. This surgery may also be called breast augmentation or augmentation mammoplasty. During breast enlargement, the surgeon places an implant in the breast. An
implant is a soft silicone shell filled with silicone gel or saline (salt water).
the implant, the surgeon makes a cut (incision) in the bottom crease of the breast, in the
armpit, or along the lower edge of the areola. (The areola is the colored area around the
nipple). The surgeon carefully
adjusts the implant to the correct shape and position. Then the incision is closed with
The implant may be placed under
the breast tissue or under the chest muscle beneath the breast. Some doctors
think that putting the implant under the chest muscle lowers the risk for a
problem called capsular contracture (hardening of tissue around the
implant). This placement may also interfere less with
A breast lift may be done at the same time
as a breast enlargement. This surgery can raise sagging breasts as well as the nipple and areola. For a breast lift, the surgeon removes excess skin from the
bottom of the breast and around the areola. The remaining
skin is then brought together. This tightens and raises the breast.
lift requires a larger incision than a breast enlargement alone. The incision may
go from the areola to the crease below the breast.
Breast enlargements and lifts are usually done in a hospital or
surgery center. You will not need to stay overnight in the
hospital unless problems occur during surgery. You will probably get medicine to make you sleep during the surgery (general anesthesia). Or you might be awake and get medicine that makes the area numb (local anesthesia or epidural).
Most women who get
breast implants will need at least one more implant surgery in their
lives. Implants don't last forever. They may need
to be removed or replaced if they leak, rupture, change
shape, or develop other problems.
implants have gel in them instead of liquid. These types of
implants don't leak if they are punctured or cut. About 1 out of 100 saline implants ruptures each
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends
having a breast
MRI 3 years after getting implants and then every 2
years after that.footnote 2 The MRI is done to check if the
implants are intact and the breast tissue looks healthy. This
testing can cost more than getting the
implants, and it may not be covered by insurance.
Also keep in mind that:
Insurance will not cover the cost of breast enlargement surgery. It may not cover the
costs of treatment for problems during
or after surgery or the costs of future surgeries to remove or replace the implants.
Check with your insurance company to find out what is covered. Also ask if getting breast implants
will affect how much you pay for your insurance.
Breast implants may cause problems during mammography.
During mammography, the breast has to be
squeezed tightly to get accurate images. In rare cases, this causes a breast implant to leak or
Be sure to tell the person who schedules your mammogram that you have implants. The technician will need to know what type of implants you have (saline or silicone)
and whether they are behind or in front of the chest muscle. The technician may need to take more
views than during a typical screening. In some cases, MRI scans
may be needed to get a clear image.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that both saline- and silicone-filled breast implants appear to be safe.
For more information on the safety of breast implants, see the FDA's website at www.fda.gov/breastimplants.
You will have gauze over the incisions. Your breasts will be wrapped in an elastic
bandage or supported by a special bra. The stitches may be removed in 7 to 10
You may have some swelling, bruising, and soreness in
your breasts for several days after the surgery. Some women also
have a burning feeling in their nipples right after surgery. Swelling and bruising may last for several weeks.
You will probably be able to return to most of your normal activities within a few days. You will need to avoid heavy
lifting and strenuous exercise until your doctor says it is safe.
You will have scars after breast enlargement surgery. But they are usually in areas that are not easily seen, such
as the crease under the breast or the armpit. Scars usually fade after a few months. If you also have a breast lift, you will have larger scars that are easier to see.
This surgery is done to
make the breasts bigger and to enhance their shape. You may decide to get
Breast enlargement surgery can
increase your breast size by one or more bra cup sizes. It can also help your breasts match better in size and shape.
Most women who get breast implants
are satisfied with the results. You are likely to be happy with the results if
you are realistic about what you expect from the surgery. The surgeon can show you pictures of other women who got implants. This can give you a good idea about what to expect.
Breast implants may make it harder for a
detect breast cancer.
Less common risks include infection, blood under the skin (hematoma), and abnormal scarring.
The risk of problems after the
surgery is higher if you have more than one surgery at the same time, such as a
breast lift and breast enlargement.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Vasconez HC, Habash A (2010). Plastic and reconstructive surgery. In GM Doherty, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Surgery, 13th ed., pp. 1092–1131. New York: McGraw-Hill.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2006). FDA approves silicone gel-filled breast implants after in-depth evaluation: Agency requiring 10 years of patient follow-up. FDA News P06-189. Available online: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2006/ucm108790.htm.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerKeith A. Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
Current as ofJune 30, 2016
Current as of:
June 30, 2016
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Keith A. Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
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