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What is Breast Augmentation?

Breast augmentation is an operation that uses silicone or saline implants to enlarge the breasts and improve their shape. Also known as breast enlargement, breast implant, breast enhancement or 'boob job', it’s the most commonly performed cosmetic procedure in the UK. 

Choosing to have breast augmentation is a big decision, and there are many reasons why women elect to undergo the procedure. Some women feel that their breasts are too small or out of proportion with the rest of their body.

Previous pregnancy or weight loss can cause breasts to reduce in size, sometimes developing excess skin pockets and sagging. Some women have breasts that are different sizes to each other and opt for breast augmentation to restore symmetry. 

Female patient discussing her implant options

What are the Benefits of Breast Augmentation? 

The main benefit of breast augmentation is an improved appearance of the breasts. Specifically, breast augmentation can:

  • Add volume to breasts that are felt to be too small or out of proportion with the rest of the body
  • Improve the shape and contour of the breasts
  • Restore symmetry to uneven breasts
  • Restore fullness to breasts after pregnancy or weight loss 
  • Provide an improved cleavage
  • Give a more youthful look to breasts that have lost volume and elasticity with age
  • Improve the appearance and feel of breasts after previous breast surgery for medical reasons.

Many women experience an improvement in self-esteem and confidence following breast augmentation. The benefits seen will depend on the personal circumstances of the patient, and will be discussed during consultation with one of The London Clinic’s specialist plastic surgeons.

What Does Breast Augmentation Involve? 

Breast augmentation  usually requires an overnight stay but occasionally it can be done as a day case. . The operation is carried out under general anaesthetic with the patient ‘asleep’, and will last around an hour and a half. 

During the operation, the surgeon makes cuts, usually in the crease below the breast, and creates a pocket of space, typically behind the breast tissue, but sometimes behind the pectoral muscle. The implant is placed in the pocket of space, and the cuts are closed with a suture.

Breast Augmentation Specialists at The London Clinic  

At The London Clinic, we understand that having breast augmentation surgery is not a decision that women make lightly. Our caring team of expert surgeons take time to understand the individual aesthetics and ideals of our patients, talk through all the available options, answer questions, and develop personalised breast surgery and recovery plans.

The London Clinic’s priority is to provide our patients with support, comfort and access to the best and most up-to-date breast augmentation treatment. Our team is dedicated to supporting our patients through every step of their journey, from initial consultation to recovery and aftercare.

What are the Treatment Options? 

There are a variety of options and decisions to consider. During consultation with one of our specialist surgeons, the following factors will be discussed:

Size of implants

This will depend on the patient’s desired result, and will take into account the patient’s body type, and their existing breast size and shape. Our specialist surgeons are experienced in helping patients choose the best and most realistic size.

Placement of implants 

Usually this will be directly behind the breasts. In cases where the patient is particularly slim or where there may not be enough skin or breast tissue to cover the implant, placing the implant behind the pectoral muscle, which lies behind the breast, may give a better result.

Type of implant 

Implants can be made of a silicone or polyurethane shell, and can be filled with either silicone or saline (salt water). Some implants are softer and give a more natural feel, although these tend to be more prone to kinking or rippling. Firmer implants give a firmer feel and hold their shape more effectively. Implants can be round or shaped to give a more natural look.

Our surgeons will talk through these options in detail.   Implants can have a textured or a smooth surface. There are risks, disadvantages and benefits to both, including a link between textured implants and ALCL (Breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma). This is an important discussion to have with your surgeon. 

Type of incision 

Most commonly, the incision will be made in the crease under the breast, where the breast meets the chest wall, known as an inframammary incision.

But depending on factors like how much enlargement is planned, the patient’s anatomy, the type of implant being used, and the surgeon’s preference, other options may be considered. Sometimes incisions are made around the nipple, known as a periareolar incision, or in the armpit, known as a transaxillary incision.

Pre-operative tests

According to current guidance, specialists may advise women to have a mammogram prior to surgery. This is dependent on factors such as age and family history of breast cancer. As per hospital policy routine blood tests and an MRSA swab may be required. 

What Complications Can Happen? 

Some of these can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any surgery

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Unsightly scarring
  • A blood clot in the leg
  • A blood clot in the lung.

Specific Complications of Breast Augmentation Surgery

  • Changes in nipple or breast sensation
  • Infection of the implant
  • Leakage or rupture of the implant
  • Misplacement of the implant
  • The implant rotating or moving out of place
  • Formation of tight scar tissue around the implant (capsular contracture)
  • Fluid accumulation (seroma) or blood accumulation (haematoma) in the pocket where the implant is
  • Breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) - is a rare and highly treatable type of lymphoma that can develop around breast implants
  • Wound breakdown or skin necrosis, where some of the skin over the breast dies
  • Wrinkling of the skin over the implant
  • Kinking or rippling of the implant
  • Persistent pain or tenderness
  • Stiff shoulder
  • The need for revision surgery.

How Soon Will I Recover? 

Knowing what to expect following breast augmentation helps women feel better prepared, and allows them to make the necessary plans that will help in their recovery. Everyone recovers at a different pace, so there is no definitive timeline.

However, most women’s recovery takes a broadly similar course. Typically women feel much better after around a week, and most take an average of around six weeks to fully recover. Our leading breast surgeons will give more personalised guidance before and after the procedure.

When Can I Return Home? 

Breast augmentation surgery is typically an overnight stay, meaning that most women will come in on the morning of surgery and go home around mid-morning the next day.

As a general anaesthetic is used, women will not be able to drive on the day of surgery, and for around a week afterwards, depending on how the recovery progresses and on the individual’s insurance coverage. 

Typical Recovery Timeline 

Everyone’s recovery is different, and the below is what a ‘typical’ recovery may look like.

Immediately After Surgery

People usually feel sleepy, groggy and achy when they wake up from a general anaesthetic. The breasts will feel sore, and perhaps tight, with some improvement seen after the first few hours. Medications will be given for pain relief, and women will be wearing a sports bra for support.

The First Week

Most women experience some pain and discomfort during the first week of recovery, and will be taking pain relief medications for this time. There is likely to be swelling and bruising to the breasts which will start to settle down over the course of the first week. Some initial bleeding or leakage is normal, and women are advised to rest during this time, avoiding all but very light exercise and movement. 

The Second and Third Weeks

Most women continue to have soreness, swelling and bruising during this time which is slowly getting better. The swelling also typically starts to move down the body to the stomach area. Pain tends to be worse at night, and becomes less common during the day. Most people can return to work after the first week, but for those with physically demanding jobs, a period of three weeks or more off work will be needed. 

Weeks Four to Six

Pain, swelling and bruising continue to improve, and there may be some tingling sensations and some numbness as nerves begin to wake up. Normal activities, including moderate exercise can resume, although strenuous exercise and heavy lifting should still be avoided at this stage, as the breasts continue to heal.  

Beyond Week Six

Most women are nearing full recovery at around six weeks with the breasts looking and feeling more natural. Strenuous physical activities and weight lifting can resume.

It’s important to understand that it may take around six months for the breasts to take on their final shape and appearance, and women are typically advised to wear a sports bra for around three months. 

What Will My Scars Look Like? 

Women will be given clear instructions on how best to help the scar tissue heal following breast augmentation. The wound will need to be kept clean and dry for the first several weeks, and certain topical treatments may be recommended by our specialists.

By around six weeks, the scar tissue has typically faded but it’s crucial to avoid direct sunlight onto the scar tissue for the first year, as sunlight will make the scar appear much darker. 

What Should I do to Get the Best Results? 

Our expert surgical teams provide comprehensive, easy to understand advice and guidance to all of our patients undergoing breast augmentation. We are also available to be contacted with any further questions as they may arise. The individual advice received from the surgical team should be closely followed to ensure the best possible results, a smooth recovery and to minimise the chance of complications. 

As a general guide, the advice is likely to include the following:

  • Keep movement to a minimum for about the first week, particularly avoiding raising the arms
  • Keep the wound clean and dry
  • As movement becomes more comfortable after the first 1-2 weeks, gentle stretches will help your muscles stay supple
  • Do not exceed the recommended exercise and activity guidance given by the surgeon, as it may cause the wound to open up
  • Keep the scar out of direct sunlight for around a year
  • Avoid driving for up to a week after surgery
  • Sleep sitting upright during early recovery
  • Wear a sports bra 24 hours a day for six to 12 weeks

What Aftercare Will be Provided? 

Our expert surgical teams provide clear aftercare instructions and guidance to all patients undergoing breast augmentation. All of our patients also receive contact information so they can contact the surgical team for advice and questions in the post-operative period. Every patient has a thorough pain assessment and will be prescribed pain relief medications to go home with. 

A follow-up appointment will be made, usually around a week after surgery, where the wound will be checked. At this stage, if removable stitches have been used, they will be removed, and further follow up plans will be made as needed.

We advise our patients to have an  ultrasound scan three years after the procedure and then every year after that. 

At The London Clinic, comprehensive and supportive aftercare is provided as standard as part of our world-class breast augmentation service.

Breast Implant Registry

In the UK, there is a national Breast and Cosmetic Implant Registry established to record all implants being placed or removed and administered by NHS Digital.  It records the implants that have been used with patient’s details, and the organisations and surgeons that have carried out the procedures. 

The main aim of the registry is to be able to trace and inform affected patients in the event of any future recall of a failed implant. The registry will also allow the identification of possible trends and complications relating to specific implants.

Why choose The London Clinic?

The London Clinic is dedicated to providing the best, personalised healthcare with over 600 world-renowned consultants available to offer informed health advice and treatment.

Spanning Harley Street and Devonshire Place, The London Clinic is situated in the heart of London’s internationally-known medical district. This central location, together with state-of-the art technologies and facilities that are not widely available in other hospitals, makes The London Clinic the hospital of choice for around 120,000 patients every year.

The London Clinic is an HTA licensed and JACIE accredited cancer centre with an ‘Excellent’ MacMillan Quality Environment Mark and with access to a Level 3 intensive care unit.

Offering affordable and competitive self-pay packages and expert support from Clinical Nurse Specialists and our specialised multidisciplinary team, over 98% of our patients said they would recommend The London Clinic to their friends and families.

Treatment cost

The London Clinic offers affordable, competitive self-pay packages for certain treatments.

Patients have the option to spread the cost of treatment with Chrysalis Finance.

Please call +44 (0)20 3613 7502 to speak to our helpful team to find out more and to book an appointment.

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