The Science – And Art -- of Breast Enlargement
Breast enhancement has been one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures since my private practice began in 1973. But the goal is to do more than simply enlarge the breast; it is to make the breast beautiful. Most, but not everyone, believe that a breast should look natural. This means that the nipple-areola complex should be centered on the breast mound. If the implant is placed too high, the nipple will point downward; if it is too low, it will point up: if too close to the center, the nipple points outward, and so forth. Ideally, it should look and feel like a breast, and it should move like a breast and not be so firmly fixed to the chest wall.
There are many choices regarding implant type and placement, and they all can affect the outcome, such as silicone vs. saline implants, behind or in front of the muscle, the size and shape of the implant, whether or not to perform an uplift, and how to keep the encapsulation rate as close to zero as possible.
Silicone implants are now cohesive, meaning if the shell tears, the silicone gel will not leak out. If saline implants leak, they will go flat. If a patient has very little breast tissue, the saline implants frequently demonstrate wrinkles, which may be seen and felt. Gel implants feel more natural, but saline implants are less expensive.
Implant position should be discussed with your plastic surgeon. Many like the submuscular position for the implant. I prefer to tailor the procedure to the patient and the patient’s activities. If there were a perfect method, there would only be one option. The submuscular position may have a lower encapsulation rate, but the recovery time is a little longer, the implants cannot be placed as close to the midline in many people, and they may move outward when the pectoralis muscle is used or flexed. The submuscular placement is less likely to show the upper rim of the implant, and thus, may look more natural in some people.
Encapsulation occurs when the body forms scar tissue around the implant, which begins to squeeze the implant making it look like a ball and feel hard to the touch. In my opinion, this is scar tissue formation from bacteria and/or something on the implant such as powder, lint or blood. Preventing an encapsulation has been one of the most challenging goals for plastic surgeons. To help prevent this from happening, powderless gloves should be used, and I use fresh gloves after dissecting the skin and before touching the implants. An antibiotic solution is generally used in the pocket around the breast tissue. Finally, massaging exercises are given post-operatively. Being very careful with these and other small details gives patients a very low encapsulation rate.
If a patient has excess sagging of the breasts, it may be necessary to perform an uplift (mastopexy) with insertion of breast implants. Simply putting in larger implants can lead to an unfavorable result in these cases. If the nipple is below the inframammary crease, then a mastopexy is recommended. If a patient has enough breast tissue, an auto-augmentation can be done (auto stands for autologous). This means a mastopexy can be done using the patient’s own tissue for fullness instead of an implant.
What about Fat Transfer for breast enhancement? It is probably the future for reconstruction of the breast and even in a cosmetic augmentation when going up one or two cup sizes. Years ago, plastic surgeon’s tried using a patient’s own fat which was liposuctioned from the abdomen, sides or thigh area. The results at that time were largely unsatisfactory, and the procedure was mostly abandoned. Recently, with the emergence of liposuction equipment such as the “Tickle Lipo,” advanced centrifuging techniques, and preservation of the regenerative fat cells (stem cells), fat transfer to the breasts is shown to be extremely effective with long lasting results. Only one to two cups size increase can be done, but the upside is no foreign body in the breast.
For those patients with issues of firm implants due to a repeated encapsulation, fat transfer is an effective new alternative. Other indications are patients having a mastopexy who want more fullness in the top of the breast or in breast reconstruction patients.