Breast Augmentation

Breasts contribute greatly to a woman’s silhouette and are an important part of her overall look. Some women decide their breast size or shape is not in line with the body image they desire. The motivation for change can be purely aesthetic or to correct a breast irregularity, such as uneven size. Breast augmentation, or breast implants can help restore symmetry, recover volume or simply enhance breast size to achieve a new, more pleasing shape.

Is Breast Augmentation Right For Me?

James Schlenker, MD, and Alexandra Schmidek, MD, are board-certified plastic surgeons who provide extensive, personalized consultations with patients considering breast augmentation. Every patient’s surgery goals are carefully considered with experienced guidance for balancing desired outcome with a woman’s body type and unique characteristics.

Women elect to undergo breast augmentation for both medical and aesthetic reasons, including balancing breast size, adding breast volume after child bearing or weight loss, or correcting an abnormality. Breast augmentation procedures are generally considered low risk when patients are carefully selected. As one of the region’s top hospitals, Virginia Mason, in Seattle, offers the expertise of an experienced plastic surgery team in a safe and comforting environment for patients.

What are My Choices for Implants?

All breast implants have a silicone outer shell, and can be filled with saline (sterilized salt water) or silicone gel. One key difference is that silicone gel implants are inserted full-size, while saline implants are filled after placement in the breast. This may affect the type and size of surgical incision. On the other hand, many women think silicone gel feels more like natural breast tissue.

While current silicone gel implants have been approved by the Federal Drug Administration since 2006, leaking is a more serious risk with silicone gel. Women who have these implants will typically need to have an MRI scan three years after the implant surgery and then follow-up scans about every two years to check for rupture. If a rupture occurs, the implants must be removed or replaced. No breast implant is guaranteed to last a lifetime and future surgery may be required for removal or replacement of either type of implant.

What Is Breast Augmentation Surgery Like?

Breast augmentation surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis under general anesthesia. Most patients can return to non-strenuous work within one week. For several weeks after the surgery, a special bra keeps the implants positioned properly and aids in the healing process. Light, non-impact exercise, such as walking or stretching, is safe and encouraged after surgery.

Surgical technique varies based on the type of breast implant, amount of enlargement, individual anatomy and personal preference. These are incision types used to perform breast augmentation:

  • The inframmary fold incision (in the breast crease) is the most versatile approach. This incision can accommodate any implant size, and future revisions can be done through the same incision site.
  • The transaxillary incision (near the armpit) is used less frequently. If revision surgery becomes necessary another incision may be needed.
  • The areolar incision (around the nipple) is a common approach, leaving a scar that usually blends in with the pigment of the areola. However this technique does not always accommodate larger implants. A peri-areolar (around the entire areola) incision can allow for larger implant insertion. 

What are the Risks of Breast Augmentation Surgery?

Though uncommon, it’s important to understand the potential risks of breast augmentation surgery including:

  • Bleeding and/or infection
  • Changes in nipple or breast sensation, which can be permanent
  • Implant leakage or rupture
  • Special technique required for mammography
  • Capsular contracture, or the formation of tight scar tissue around the implant (can be corrected with surgery)
  • Fluid accumulation (seroma)
  • Wrinkling of the skin over the implant
  • Persistent pain
  • Possibility of revision surgery

Why Choose Virginia Mason for Breast Augmentation Surgery?

Drs. Schmidek and Schlenker are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and are highly experienced in plastic surgery procedures for the breast. Virginia Mason is a complete health care system bringing medical expertise with a personal focus across primary, specialty and hospital care. Patients at Virginia Mason are cared for by a coordinated team of experts in one of the most advanced medical centers in the country.

Next Steps: More Information About Breast Augmentation

Learn more about breast augmentation surgery at Virginia Mason, and the level of quality care you can expect from our entire care team by calling (206) 223-6831 to schedule a private, personalized consultation. Breast augmentation is offered at Virginia Mason Hospital & Seattle Medical Center.

You can also check out the RealSelf breast augmentation site for forums, Q&As, and other information from the community about breast augmentation.