Breast Augmentation Surgery – A Complete Consumer Guide

Breast augmentation is a type of plastic surgery performed to improve the appearance of a woman's bustline. It involves the insertion of breast implants into the breast mounds to add volume and enhanced shapeliness.

Women opt for breast surgery for a variety of reasons. For example, some wish to increase the size of naturally small breasts, while others seek to correct disproportionate breasts or repair breasts following mastectomy or trauma to the chest.

Breast Augmentation Education and Consultation

If you are thinking about breast enhancement surgery, be sure to do some research and learn more about breast augmentation. Our Breast Implants Consumer Guide can provide you with valuable information as you consider your options.

Next, consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon and ask him or her, "Am I a candidate for breast implants?" During this consultation, the surgeon will perform an exam and listen carefully to your goals for surgery. It is important to be as clear as possible about what you want to achieve with the surgery and the exact look you desire.

The surgeon will then tell you what you need to know about breast augmentation, including information about breast augmentation cost and risks.

Types of Breast Implants

If you decide to go ahead with surgery, one of the first questions you will have to ask yourself is, Which breast implant is right for me? However, you will not make this decision on your own. Your surgeon will help you decide the best implant type for you based on your body type and goals.

Breast implants come in two basic types: saline and silicone. Both types are composed of a rubbery silicone shell containing a filler material. Saline implants are filled with a saltwater solution, whereas silicone implants are filled with silicone gel. There are two types of silicone gel: cohesive gel and highly cohesive, form-stable gel. The latter is found in "gummy bear" implants, so named because they have the consistency of gummy bear candies.

One of the differences between the two types of implants is cost; saline breast implants are slightly cheaper than silicone implants. The implants also differ in the way they feel to the touch. Most people agree that silicone breast implants feel more natural than saline implants.

Both types of implants are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For information about the approval history of implants, please visit our page on breast implants and the FDA.

Breast Implant Sizes and Shapes

In addition to the type of implants you wish to receive, you will need to make decisions about the size and shape of your implants. Your surgeon may ask you to "try on" different sizes and test them out using special devices and bras. One of the most common reasons women undergo revision breast augmentation is to receive larger implants, so take your time and be sure you are making the right choice the first time through.

Learn more about breast enhancement surgery

Implants also come in different shapes. Some implants are teardrop-shaped for a more natural appearance, while others are rounded for a fuller look at the top of the breasts. Again, your surgeon will help you choose the shape that will help you attain the look you want.

Placement of Breast Implants

When performing breast augmentation surgery, your surgeon will create a pocket within each breast in which he or she will place your implants. There are several options for the placement of these pockets in relation to your breast tissue and chest muscles. The three main breast implant placement choices are:

  • Subglandular, or above the pectoral muscles – With this placement, the implants are situated behind the breast tissue but in front of the chest muscles.
  • Partial submuscular, or partially behind the muscles – When performing this placement, the surgeon inserts the implants behind the breast tissue and partly beneath the chest muscles.
  • Complete submuscular, or completely behind the muscles – In this case, the implants are fully beneath both the breast tissues and chest muscles.

As with every other decision in the breast augmentation process, the choice of where to place your implants will be made by you and your surgeon and will be based on your particular body characteristics and treatment goals.

Incision Options

To perform breast augmentation surgery, your surgeon must make incisions in your skin. These incisions can be quite small and carefully placed, making them nearly undetectable. Breast implant incisions can be placed in one of the following four locations:

  • Under the breast (inframammary incision) – These incisions are located along the natural skin folds where the bottoms of your breasts meet your chest.
  • Around the nipple (periareolar incision) – Carefully placed along the edges of the areolas, these incisions are largely unnoticeable after healing.
  • In the arm pit (transaxillary incision) – Using this placement option, the surgeon maneuvers the implants beneath the skin from the armpits to the breasts.
  • In the navel area (transumbilical, or TUBA, incision) – Reserved for saline implants, which can be inflated following insertion, this placement allows the surgeon to place the implants with virtually no visible scarring.

The best incision location for you will depend on several factors, including the type of implants you have chosen.

Other Types of Breast Surgery

In addition to breast augmentation, women often seek other types of breast enhancement surgery, including breast lift, breast reduction and nipple surgery.

Breast lift is performed to correct drooping, sagging breasts. In performing this procedure, the surgeon removes excess skin to raise the breasts higher on the chest. Breast lift is often part of a mommy makeover, a combination procedure to help mothers regain a more youthful appearance following the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth.

Breast reduction is a procedure in which excessively large breasts are reduced in volume by means of the surgical removal of breast tissue and skin.

Nipple surgery is performed to correct nipples that are too large, too small or mismatched.

Regardless of the type of surgery you might be considering, be sure to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Visit our directory to find a surgeon near you.