Hundreds of thousands of women have their breasts augmented each year in the United States, and those who have had great breast augmentations don't look artificial - they look beautiful and natural, with breasts that are full but in harmony with their figure. They look great, they wear what they want to and fill out their clothes nicely, and the surgery they have had is their little secret.
When the goal of this operation is a natural-appearing breast enhancement, the results can be absolutely beautiful. However, if the goal is to create an excessively full breast profile which is out of proportion to the shoulders, waist and hips, then the results - by definition - never appear natural. These patients not infrequently end up having a series of operations to address problems related to the excessive implant volume.For any patient considering breast augmentation, there is an implant size above which the upper pole begins to look rounded, convex, and unnaturally full. Mild to moderate upper pole fullness can look beautiful and youthful, but excessive upper pole fullness due to overly-large implants looks decidedly fake, and like what most people think of as a 'boob job'.
The actual size of a breast implant, measured in cc's, is really not very descriptive of what a breast augmentation will look like, or what the cup size will be. It is all relative to the size of the breast and the size of the patient preoperatively. A tall, broad-shouldered patient with small A-cup breasts may require 450cc implants to achieve a C-cup breast volume postoperatively, while a shorter patient with medium B-cup breasts may only need a 250cc implant to achieve a C-cup breast volume.
If a natural appearance is the goal, then the way to get the size right is to 'try out' different implant volumes and profiles in the operating room. Once the implant pockets have been created, sterile sizers can be placed in the implant pockets, and the upper half of the O.R. table raised so that the resulting breast appearance can be assessed with the patient in an upright 'sitting' position (chest fully upright) while under anesthesia. These sizers are available not only for each implant size but also for each implant profile: low, moderate and high (in this practice we use high-profile implants only in rare instances). Inflatable sizers are used for saline implant augmentations, and pre-filled gel sizers are used for gel implant augmentations.
For any patient there is obviously a range of implant volumes that would be considered natural-appearing, and a volume at which the upper pole of the breast begins to look very unnatural. While one patient may seek an augmentation that is 'perfectly natural', another may be interested in a result that is more on 'the full side of natural', and many patients do ask that the largest implant volume be selected that does not produce an unnatural fullness in the upper pole. By using breast implant sizers intra-operatively to determine exactly what breast implant profile and volume produces the best breast appearance in the O.R., patients can be provided with the closest possible approximation of their preoperative goals, and can be assured of a natural-appearing result.
n many breast augmentation patients, the inframammary fold needs to be lowered in order to allow the implant to rest at a level that appears natural relative to the position of the nipple and areola. Ideally the implant should be centered directly behind the nipple-areola complex (NAC). In profile, the natural-appearing breast is not convex in the upper pole, and an excessively convex and overly full upper pole is a dead giveaway that a breast implant sits below the skin. In addition, inadequate release of the inferior origin of the pectoralis major will allow the muscle to hold the implant in too high a position, and may even cause the implant to displace upwards (as high as the collar bone in some patients) when the muscle contracts. Patients with this problem require reoperation to release the inferior origin of the pec major and/or the inframammary fold.
Likewise, if the inframammary fold is lowered too far, the augmented breast will appear 'bottomed out', with an excessively full lower pole, an empty upper pole, and a nipple/areola that appears to sit too high on the breast - another situation with a distinctly unnatural appearance, and one that requires surgical correction: repair of the inframammary fold(s).
The horizontal position of breast implants also requires a great deal of attention, both in pre-operative planning and in the operating room. Excessive lateral dissection of the implant pockets will result in augmented breasts with an excessively wide space between them in the cleavage area, and the appearance that the breasts are abnormally far apart. The result may (or may not) be tolerable in the upright standing or sitting position, but when the patient lays down in supine position (on one's back) the implants may fall far to the side and produce little to no anterior breast projection in this position. Patients with the problem almost always want it corrected, and the treatment once again is surgical: a lateral repair of the implant space, to restrain the implants from falling off to the side.
Inadequate lateral dissection, on the other hand, will result in an augmentation with an abnormal 'side by side' appearance. It is lateral projection of the breasts beyond the lateral border of the chest wall (in frontal view) that, along with the concavity of the waist profile and the convexity of the hip profile, produces the appearance of an 'hourglass figure'. While one does not want to over dissect the lateral extent of an implant pocket, careful attention must also be paid to ensure that lateral breast projection is not inadequate.
Breast implant base diameter is also of crucial importance. The base diameter (the side-to-side dimension of the implant) must be ideal for the existing horizontal dimension of the breasts preoperatively, as well as the breadth of the anterior chest in general. Obviously, a given implant volume and base diameter that works well for a small-framed patient that is 5'3" will be completely inadequate for a broad-chested patient who is 5'10". One wants to increase cleavage area fullness and lateral breast projection in most cases, and an implant of inadequate base diameter may accomplish only one of those goals, while too wide an implant will be overprojecting in both directions. Careful evaluation of all of these breast and implant dimension issues is necessary if the ultimate goal of the surgery is a natural-appearing breast augmentation.