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Breast Implants - Types, Breast Augmentation Surgery, and Complications

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Breast Implants - Types, Breast Augmentation Surgery, and Complications

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A breast implant is a medical device grafted either for cosmetic purposes or post-surgery. This article provides guidance on breast augmentation, types of breast implants, the outcome of breast augmentation and complications related to it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Jain Vicky Ghewarchand

Published At November 13, 2019
Reviewed AtMarch 22, 2023


An artificial device that is used to change the size, shape, and contour of a woman’s breast is called a breast implant. It can be used to restore a natural-looking breast after surgically removing the breast (mastectomy) or to correct birth defects. Some women also use it for cosmetic purposes to improve the appearance of their breasts (breast augmentation surgery).

The filler materials used for breast implants are saline, silicone gel, structured fillers, and composite fillers. The most commonly used types are the saline-filled and silicone-gel filled implants. The possible complications of getting implants are breast pain, infection, implant rupture, and collection of fluid around the breast.

Why Is Breast Augmentation Done?

The common reasons for getting breast implants are:

  • If the breasts are too small.

  • If one breast is smaller than the other.

  • To replace breast tissue damaged due to trauma, breast cancer, and birth deformities.

  • To correct the outcome of a breast reconstruction surgery done in the past.

  • To enhance how your breasts look.

  • After mastectomy.

You should not have unrealistic expectations about getting breast implants and talk to a plastic surgeon before you decide on breast augmentation surgery.

What Are the Common Types of Breast Implants Used?

The common types of breast implants available are:

1) Saline breast implants - These are filled with sterile saline (saltwater). And if there is a leak, the saline implant collapses and the saltwater naturally exits the body. These implants provide a uniform shape and firmness. It is approved to be used for females above 18 years of age.

2) Silicone breast implants - These fillers are made of silicone and silicone gel. It is firm, uniform in shape, and it feels almost like natural breasts. If this implant breaks, it will not collapse and the gel remains within the implant shell or escapes out. It is approved to be used for females older than 22 years of age.

3) Structured implants - These implants are filled with saline and are made of silicone covering. This combines both the silicone and saline fillers in one. They come in different sizes and can have a smooth or textured shell.

4) Gummy bear breast implants - Gummy bear breast implants maintain their shape even if the implant shell breaks. The silicone gel inside is thicker and firmer. It needs a bigger incision to place it, and if the implant rotates, then a separate procedure needs to be done to correct it.

5) Round breast implants - These implants make breasts appear fuller. They are evenly round, so even if it rotates, it does not affect the shape and needs no procedure to correct it.

What Are the Things to Consider Before Getting Breast Implants?

If you decide to get breast implants, your plastic surgeon will ask you about your preferences for the size and appearance of the breasts. They will show you all the available types of implants, and you can make a decision based on your surgeon’s opinion and your preference.

Before you get the surgery done, the things you need to consider are:

  1. Implants do not prevent the breasts from sagging. For sagging breasts, you might also need a procedure called a breast lift.Breast implants last on an average of about 10 years.

  2. Factors like aging, weight gain, weight loss, etc., will affect the way your breasts look after surgery.

  3. A routine mammogram might not be enough, and you might need specialized imaging if you get breast implants.

  4. Some women find it difficult to breastfeed after getting breast augmentation surgery.

  5. It is an expensive procedure, and insurance does not cover it.

  6. If in the future you want to get the implants removed, you will need additional surgeries to lift your breast and restore the natural appearance.

  7. Some doctors recommend getting routine MRIs after three years.

  8. Avoid smoking or taking Aspirin before the surgery.

What to Expect During Breast Augmentation Surgery?

This surgery is most commonly done under general anesthesia, that is you will be put to sleep during the procedure. You will most probably be able to go home the same day.

The plastic surgeon will make an incision to insert the breast implant. This incision is either made in the crease under the breast (inframammary), or under that arm (axillary), or near the nipple (periareolar).

After this, the breast tissue are separated from the muscles and connective tissue, which creates a pocket. The breast implant is then inserted in this pocket. Saline implants are either filled before inserting or after inserting the outer shell. Silicone implants are preformed and contain silicone gel.

After placing the implant, the incision is closed with sutures and surgical tapes or bandages are placed.

What to Expect After Breast Augmentation Surgery?

After the surgery, you will have soreness and swelling for a few weeks. The scars fade over time, but will not completely disappear. The things you can do the promote healing are:

  • For extra support, wear a compression bandage or sports bra.

  • Take painkillers prescribed by your surgeon.

  • You can resume work in a few weeks.

  • Do not perform strenuous activities that could raise your blood pressure for 2 to 3 weeks.

  • Get the sutures and drainage pipe removed by your doctor and go for regular follow-ups.

  • Get immediate medical help if you have a fever, discharge from the incision, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

What Are the Possible Complications from Getting Breast Implants?

Some of the possible complications include:

  • Thick scarring.

  • The breast tissue might feel hard due to the shrinking of scar tissue.

  • The implant can rupture.

  • The implant might rotate.

  • The nipples might become more or less sensitive or numb.

  • Inability to breastfeed.

Breast Implant Illness:

Some women with breast implants experience symptoms like chest pain, hair loss, chills, persistent pain, depression, headaches, sleep problems, neurological problems, etc.. This condition is called breast implant illness (BII). This condition is still not recognized medically, and more research is needed to understand the cause and its relation to breast fillers.

For any further queries about breast implants, consult a plastic surgeon online now!

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are Breast Implants?

Breast implants are prosthetic or artificial medical materials that are placed under the breast surgically in women who wish to enhance the size and shape of their breasts and in women who have undergone breast removal surgery due to cancer or tumor of the breasts.


What Can I Expect After Getting Breast Implants?

After a breast implant surgery, there may be swelling in the breast region that will slowly settle down. There will be pricking sensations and a feel of stretching inside the breast region. The breasts reach their original position after six weeks of surgery. Incision lines also fade within weeks. Though there might be slight heaviness and unnatural feeling, they must subside and will get used to within 6 to 8 weeks.


Do Breast Implants Cause Pain?

Breast implants by themselves do not cause pain, but pain in the breast area is quite common immediately after getting a breast implant as it is a surgical procedure. But these can be managed with pain medications. Within a week or two, the pain subsides with healing and medications.


Which Breast Implants Are Safer?

Both saline and silicone breast implants are considered safe. But both have tendencies to rupture, upon which surgery to remove the implants should be performed again.


What Is the Longevity of Breast Implants?

Breast implants last anywhere between 10 to 20 years. However, it is based on different manufacturers. On average, they last for 7 to 12 years.


What Is the Longevity of Silicone Breast Implants?

Silicone breast implants last for 10 to 20 years. However, 20% of women have got their implants replaced within 10 years.


How Long Does It Take To Recover After Getting Breast Implants?

After getting a breast implant procedure done, usually, it takes six weeks to recover until then highly exertional activities are not advised.


How Do I Know When to Replace My Breast Implants?

If you notice a change in the shape of the breasts, want to change the size of your implants, feel any discomfort like chest tightness due to rupture of existing implants or the formation of scar tissue around the implants, consider replacing or removing the implants.


How Frequently Should Breast Implants Be Replaced?

It is advised that women with breast implants consider replacing their implants once every ten years.


Will There Be Any Change in Breast Implants After Pregnancy?

Though pregnancy does not impact the integrity of breast implants, there are high chances for changes in the appearance of breasts once done with breastfeeding. This is due to the increase in breast size due to hormonal changes during pregnancy and breastfeeding to produce more milk. After which, the breast tissues shrink, lose elasticity, and give a sagging look. Postpartal changes in the appearance of the breast in women with breast implants are as same as postpartum women without implants.


Will I Be Able to Feel the Breast Implants?

Breast implants feel natural and do not feel artificial inside if it is of appropriate size and not too large. But this takes time and depends upon an individual. On average, it should range between 1.5 to 2 months.


Are Breast Augmentation and Breast Implants the Same?

While breast augmentation is a surgical cosmetic procedure to enhance the size of the breasts, breast implants are prosthetic or artificial materials that go under the breasts supporting the augmentation process.


Does Having a Breast Implant Increase the Cancer Risk?

Though studies are in progress and are not confirmatory yet, the incidence and increased risk of anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare cancer, were reported in women with breast implants.


How Can One Know if They Have Breast Cancer With Implants?

Routine breast cancer screening tests can be performed as usual. A self-breast examination is done the same way as every woman without implants would do to look for breast masses. Getting mammography is a bit different as it is not possible to get accurate results with standard mammography angles and positions. Prior information regarding breast implants should be given to the technician to use different viewing angles.


What Happens if Breast Implants Are Not Replaced?

Breast implants do not last life long and need to be replaced at some point in time. There are few risks with unreplaced silicone breast implants. The longer the silicone implants are in place, the higher is the risk of their rupture.


Do Breast Implants Increase the Risk of Lung Diseases?

Though not so common, breast implants tend to cause lung diseases like pleural effusion, pulmonary silicone embolism, pneumonia, and breathing difficulties associated with rupture of the implants.


Which Breast Implants Give a Natural Feel?

Silicone breast implants look and feel more natural because they have lesser chances of wrinkling when compared to the saline alternatives that fold, go down, or rupture.


For How Long Will the Heaviness of Breast Implants Be Felt?

Approximately it takes six to twelve months for women to adjust and not feel the heaviness of breast implants.


Do Breast Implants Remain Permanently Inside?

Breast implants do not last a lifetime. On average, breast implants last for 10 years, after which they might need to be replaced or removed to prevent complications.


Which Sized Breast Implants Are More Common?

Breast implants are measured in cubic centimeters. They range from 100 to 1000 cubic centimeters. But the most common size ranges from 300 to 500 cc.


Are Breast Implants Placed Under or Over the Muscle?

There are two types of breast implants.
- Submuscular-These implants go under the pectoral muscle (chest muscle).
- Subglandular-These implants go under the breast tissue and over the pectoral muscle.
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Dr. Jain Vicky Ghewarchand
Dr. Jain Vicky Ghewarchand

plastic surgery-reconstructive and cosmetic surgery


breast implants
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