Breast Implants - Do Breast Implants Cause Stretch Marks?


Stretch marks (Striae) after breast augmentation (Augmentation Mammoplasty) with breast implants are very unusual but it can happen. I have seen significant Striae in only one patient in almost 30 years. It occurred in a professional body builder who was prone to stretch marks and who began vigorously weight lifting a week after her breast implant surgery, against my advice. If stretch marks have occurred in other patients they have not complained or brought it to my attention. Normally, in most patients it does not happen.

Most Plastic Surgeons agree that Striae can happen after Augmentation Mammoplasty but it is unusual. The highest incidence I have ever read about is 1 or 2 patients in one hundred but that was not a statistically significant, scientific study. In my experience the problem is much less than 1 in 100. There are also factors which can increase the chances of stretch marks after surgery.

Some of the factors which increase the chances of stretch marks after breast implants are:

· You are prone to Striae-if you developed this problem in other body areas such as hips, thighs and abdomen especially during rapid adolescent growth phase, you are more likely to develop this problem after breast implants.

· Pre pregnancy-younger women who have never had children, and thus have never gone through breast engorgement during pregnancy are more likely to have this problem than women who have had children.

· Very thin fair skin- this type of skin is more fragile and potentially susceptible to injury with expansion.

· Choosing too large an implant- a very large augmentation, greater than 400-450 ccs puts significant expansion forces on the breast skin and can raise the risk of stretch marks. This is particularly true in younger women with fair thin skin who have not had children. Women who are prone to Striae are especially at risk with very large Implants.

· Too vigorous chest muscle exercise e.g. Weight lifting, pectoralis crunching, too soon after surgery.

How to avoid stretch marks after breast implants

· Choose a sub muscular rather than sub glandular placement of the breast implant. Under the muscle rather than over the muscle. The muscle can help protect the skin from too rapid expansion.

· Choose a smaller enlargement or augmentation if you have never had children and have fair thin skin. I would say a maximum of 250cc.

· Avoid heavy vigorous exercise for at least 3 weeks after surgery. Avoid specific chest exercises like bench press and pectoralis muscle strengthening exercises.

· If you are prone to Striae delay augmentation until after having children.

What to Do If You Develop Striae

· Creams do not help. The problem is that as the skin is expanded the Dermis, the deeper layer of the skin actually tears which causes the depression or Striae. New collagen build up is required for repair. Creams cannot do that.

· Laser Therapy- there is only one laser that I have seen which can improve Striae. That is the 1540 Fractional Non Ablative Erbium Laser. Do not have CO2 laser treatments they can make Striae worse! The sooner you have 1540 Laser treatments the better, hopefully within weeks after they appear. The 1540 laser works best on new, fresh Striae that are pink to red. You may need 4-6 treatments 4-6 weeks apart, but you must start early while the Striae are still pink for best result. The Striae will be lessened, become smaller and white but will not completely disappear.

· Combined 1540 laser and infrared skin tightening can improve, not remove, older white Striae. The best results I have seen have been combined 1540 and LuxIR Deep treatments. Understand that Lasers are building new collagen. That takes time. You will not see an immediate result. You will see the best result 1 to 2 years after the last of 4-6 treatments.

If you develop stretch marks after your breast implant surgery try to find an expert at Laser Therapy. Consult a plastic surgeon or dermatologist who has experience in Lasers. Visit the website of the ASLMS-American Society of Lasers in Medicine and Surgery to find someone in your area. Do not go to a Spa and have technician or non MD do these treatments. Your Doctor needs to be experienced in this poorly understood new advanced use of the Laser.

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Boston Plastic Surgeon