Breast Augmentation: Defining Treatments To Understand What Works For You

Breast augmentation, commonly referred to as a boob job or augmentation mammoplasty, is a procedure designed to improve the appearance of a woman’s breasts. It involves augmenting, or increasing, the size of the breasts by using either breast implants or a process known as fat transfer.

According to the American Society Of Plastic Surgeons, breast augmentation surgery was the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the US in 2016 with 290,467 patients opting for the surgery.

Read next: Breast Augmentation: Procedure, Type of Implants, Costs for average prices of breast augmentation surgery across countries.

In this article, we are going to present different ways a breast augmentation can be performed, how different procedures can be combined, and what a breast lift entails.

Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation

Fat transfer breast augmentation involves taking unwanted fat from other parts of your body - typically the tummy, flanks, or thighs - and inject it into your breasts.

How Does It Work?

Once the surgeon has selected the donor site, he/she will use a liposuction technique to suction fat, which will then be processed into pure fat. Then the surgeon will inject hundreds of minute individual fat droplets into the breast through a cannula to achieve the desired look. This breast augmentation procedure can be a viable option for women who are looking for a modest increase in breast size, who do not require a significant breast lift, and who have an adequate amount of “good fat” (fat that is resistant to diet and exercise) in the donor site.

Breast Augmentation With Implants

Implants can be made out of silicone which are filled with a special silicone gel. You should choose an implant type with your surgeon, who will be able to match the right type with your individual needs to accomplish your desired results.

How Does It Work?

As with any major medical procedure, the first step will be anesthesia. The surgeon will then create the incision, which can be performed in three three main ways: periareolar incision (along the bottom edge of your areola), inframammary incision (underneath the breast along the bottom fold), and transaxillary incision (in the bottom portion of your underarm). Once the incision is made, the surgeon will insert the implant. This can be done with a submuscular placement, which involves positioning the implant in a pocket underneath your pectoral muscle, with a submammary, or subglandular placement.

Which method your surgeon uses will depend on your body type, your preferred implants and how large you are hoping your breasts will be. The last step involves closing the incisions with stitches, medical-grade skin adhesive or surgical tape, depending on the incision site.

Recovery time varies from six to eight weeks, but improvements can be seen in as little as one week. Your doctor will likely recommend no heavy lifting or strenuous activity for up to six weeks, but you should be able to resume normal, light activity after a few days of complete rest.

Breast Implants vs. Fat Transfer: Pros and Cons

If you’re looking for a breast augmentation procedure and are undecided between implants or fat transfer, make sure you discuss your options with your doctor or surgeon. To give you an idea of the upsides and downsides, we have compiled a list of pros and cons for breast implants and fat transfer.

Pros and Cons of Breast Implants

Pros Cons
- Results are more predictable since inanimate, equal objects are placed in the patient’s breasts. - Potential complications: capsular contracture, rippling, implant infection, and implant puncture or failure.
- Long-term solution for achieving an ideal figure. - Stiffer feeling, hardly look or feel like natural breasts.
- Symmetrical result thanks to equal objects being implanted. - Scarring: scars may be visible at first but will fade over time.
- Larger sizes available. - Lifetime maintenance: implants must be replaced at least once every ten years.
- More fullness in the upper portion of the breast. - In extreme cases, the body may reject the implants altogether.
- Lower cost. - Complicated mammograms: the presence of implants can make it more difficult to get a clear mammogram image.

Pros and Cons of Fat Transfer

Pros Cons
- No artificial materials involved. - Uncertain reliability of the technique’s results. 50-65% of the fat graft will be permanent, but this can vary due to a possible unequal reabsorption of the fat.
- More natural feel. - Possible asymmetry due to differences in the number of blood cells between the right and left breasts that can result in different survival rates of fat cells transferred.
- Some of the potential complications of breast implants (capsular contracture, rippling, implant infection, and implant puncture or failure) are eliminated. - Predictability of results: fat cells behave like fat cells, so weight gain will cause them to enlarge, and weight loss will make them diminish.
- No incisional scars on the breast. - Aging process doesn’t stop: the shape of the breasts continues to change and additional procedures may be needed.
- Low maintenance: no risk of implant breakage or need of replacing an implant. - A single procedure may not be able to create significant augmentation.
- More flexibility: augmentation via fat transfer is tailored to the individual’s desires.

Can Fat Transfer Be Combined With Breast Implants?

Yes. Fat grafting can be used in addition to breast implants to contour the shape of the breast and achieve a more natural look. It can also be useful for patients with implants who desire a narrower cleavage or have issues with rippling. When an implant is removed, fat grafting can restore breast volume. Moreover, fat transfer is a good option to improve asymmetries after a breast augmentation surgery with implants or for further enhancement of the breasts at a later stage.

Breast Lift: What Is It?

Breast lift, or mastopexy, involves moving the nipple and areola, lift the breast and eliminate excess skin to reshape and add volume to the breasts. Breast lifts, however, will not significantly change the size of the breasts. There are several events in a woman’s life that can cause loss of skin elasticity. A breast lift can rejuvenate the appearance of breasts after pregnancy, breastfeeding, weight fluctuations, or aging.

Can a Breast Lift Be Combined With Breast Implants?

Yes. Combining a breast lift with implants can help a woman achieve fuller, rounder and more youthful-looking breasts. Having a breast lift in addition to breast implants allows not only to improve the size of breasts but also to change their shape and position. This can be done by relocating the nipples in a more centralized position (to prevent them from pointing downward), or by reducing the dimensions of the areola.

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The information in this article is for educational purposes only and does not replace medical advice. Always consult your doctor before starting any treatments.

About the author

Dr. Alexandre Figueiredo, Medical Content Manager

Alex is a medical doctor by training. He feels strongly about the current shortcomings of our healthcare system and thinks it’s about time that patients started benefiting from first-class, yet affordable treatment.

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