The 2018 American Society of Plastic Surgeons Statistics Report found that augmentation mammaplasty (a.k.a. breast augmentation) was the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the United States with some 313,000 performed. Breast augmentation procedures involving implants, autologous fat transfers, or some combination of the two can safely and effectively address a myriad of concerns related to small breast size (check out our full guide to Breast Shape & Size Concerns). A conversation with a board certified plastic surgeon can determine which solution is most appropriate for your breast shape and size.
Who might consider breast augmentation?
It goes without saying that no two breasts are the same. Genetics, age, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and weight changes are just a few of the factors that can impact that size and shape of the breast, and, for women who consider their breasts to be too small, there are several types of breast augmentation procedures that can increase bust size and address a lack of volume or volume loss.
Female Breast Anatomy
For patients who are also experiencing drooping or sagging breasts, breast augmentation surgeries can be combined with an invasive or non-invasive breast lift (read our full guide to Breast Lift Solutions). In the case of women who have undergone a lumpectomy or mastectomy either preventatively or as part of cancer treatment, breast reconstruction that augments the existing size or shape of the breasts is also possible. For more information, you can review our guide to breast reconstruction.
What can you expect from a breast augmentation procedure?
Given their popularity, breast augmentation surgery techniques have been and continue to be refined to allow for highly personalized and effective results. Generally speaking, there are two main types of breast augmentation.
- Breast Augmentation with Implants: The procedure most commonly associated with the so-called "boob job" involves placing an implant either under the pectoral muscle of the chest (i.e. sub-pectoral) or over it (a.k.a. pre-pectoral) to augment the breast. There are silicone breast implants, saline-filled breast implants, and blended implants, and implant placement size, and shape are informed by the patient's desired outcome and the expertise of the plastic surgeon.
- Breast Augmentation with Autologous Fat Transfer: As an alternative to implants, this two-part procedure involves harvesting fat from a donor site on the body (think: thighs, love handles, abdomen, etc.) before purifying and injecting it into the breasts. This type of augmentation typically yields a smaller cup size than implants, and, while there is no chance of rejection with the procedure, some of the fat will likely be reabsorbed into the body.
The third form of breast augmentation is a hybrid surgery that combines an implant with fat transfer. Because women seldom have naturally symmetrical breasts, this technique allows plastic surgeons to shape and size each breast as needed and create a more natural-looking result than implants alone can often achieve.
The length and nature of recovery depends on the procedure. Fat transfer and hybrid procedures, for example, often take a bit longer to heal due to the two surgical sites. But the results of all procedures are immediate and long lasting. Breast augmentation incisions are relatively inconspicuous and fade over time.
When should you consider a breast augmentation procedure?
While the timing of any cosmetic procedure is a personal one, women who are planning to have children may choose to put off breast procedures until after pregnancy and breastfeeding. Breast volume fluctuates greatly before, during, and after pregnancy, which could impact previous breast augmentation or surgical results.
Breast revision procedures do exist to address such concerns (read our guide to Breast Reduction & Revision Solutions), but patients who wish to avoid multiple procedures should consider postponing breast surgery until after they give birth and breastfeed.
With this in mind, candidates in generally good health, who have had a breast exam to rule out underlying disease, can consider a breast augmentation procedure.
Why should you consider a breast augmentation procedure?
A patient who is dissatisfied with the size, shape, or symmetry of her bust will benefit from a discussion with a board certified plastic surgeon to determine which breast augmentation procedure would be most beneficial for her desired aesthetic.
Breast Augmentation Procedures
While a plastic surgeon will determine the best treatment plan depending on the needs of the patients, breast augmentation procedures are usually performed under general anesthesia and involve creating incisions around the breast area to place breast implants (like saline implants or silicone implants) or grafted autologous fat that enhance the appearance of the natural breast tissue.
Breast augmentation with saline implants, silicone gel implants, autologous fat transfer, or some combination of the three can enhance breast shape and give women who perceive their breasts to be too small their desired aesthetic. The type of breast augmentation surgery performed is dependent on the goals of the individual in consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon.