By Consultant Plastic Reconstructive Surgeon, Martin Jones
Breast augmentation is the surgical procedure of inserting implants underneath breast tissue to increase the bust size. The procedure was first introduced in America in the early 1960s, since then its popularity has continued to sharply rise. It is now the most common aesthetic surgical procedure conducted in the UK. According to BAAPS (British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons) just under 8000 women had the procedure in 2016.
Over the years, subtle improvements have been made to the shell of implants as well as to their contents. All current implants have a shell that is made of silicone that is either textured, allowing it to stick to the breast tissue or it can be smooth. In the large majority, the filling is high-grade medical silicone. This can be soft in consistency or firm depending on what type of implant is selected. Saline or salty water is rarely used as the filler, as this is less life-like and has the disadvantage of rippling over time. Modern implants have a lifespan of around 10 to 15 years, although if they are still in good condition at that time, there is no necessity to change them. No implant will last forever, so it is likely that further surgery and expense will be encountered at some point in the future.
There are three broad scenarios where breast implants are used surgically. They may be used in a cosmetic operation to increase bust size equally on both sides of the chest. This may be seen in women who develop little or no breast tissue in their teenage years. We also see women whose breast tissue has reduced over time as a result of pregnancy. In this situation, an implant can restore volume and shape especially to the upper part of the breast. It can also be combined with an up-lift procedure or mastopexy to help correct droop or ptosis of the breast. If there is breast asymmetry, it may be appropriate to use different sizes to balance out the breasts, allowing clothes to fit properly. Lastly, implants can be used to help reconstruct a breast when it has to be removed in the treatment of breast cancer to help restore balance. It is important to remember that a cosmetic breast augmentation is not necessary for your health but may enhance your well-being.