Breast augmentation is by far the most popular plastic surgery procedure among American women. It’s safe, relatively easy, and the results can change your life. But as with any elective surgery, it’s important to get all your questions answered so that you can feel completely comfortable with your decision. Below, we have put together answers to 5 important questions about breast implants and your recovery after breast augmentation.
1. How do I know silicone gel implants are safe?
Silicone gel implants for breast augmentation are among the most researched devices in the history of medicine and are perfectly safe. For additional background, it’s important to understand the history of silicone implants. They were immediately very popular since they were introduced in 1962, but in 1992 the FDA restricted their use to reconstructive surgery. This was not due to any deficiency, but rather the belief in some circles that there might be a link to certain diseases and immunological disorders. No such links were ever established, and after extensive and exhaustive research, silicone gel implants were re-approved for general use in 2006. They have only gained in popularity since then. But the temporary restriction still has some people asking if they are safe.
While both saline and silicone implants are equally safe, there are differences between saline and silicone implants in terms of cost, shape, and comfort. Lately, a new kind of implant has become popular: the gummy bear implant. It’s not really new, however, as it is also made of silicone, just of a different density and shape.
2. Can I have a mammogram with breast implants?
First off, rest assured that the risk of breast cancer is not affected by breast implants. The primary risk factors are age and family history, and numerous studies, as already discussed above, have shown that breast implants are safe and do not cause breast cancer.
But what happens when you need a mammogram? It is true that the x-rays used for mammograms have trouble going through either saline or silicone implants so that it’s more difficult to get a good image of your breast tissue. However, a good mammogram technician (like at any “Breast Imaging Center of Excellence”) can use techniques that push the implant to the side to get a better picture. It also depends where your surgeon placed the implants – behind or in front of the muscle. In cases where a good screening cannot be performed with a mammogram, there is also the option of an MRI.
If you have breast implants, it is important that you tell your radiologist before having your mammogram so that he or she can make sure to take it into consideration. You do not have to worry about your implants getting crushed, or of any potential cancer to go undetected because of your implants.
3. Can I have an EKG with breast implants?
As with a mammogram, it is important to inform your cardiologist of your implants before having an electrocardiogram (EKG). There have been recent studies into whether breast implants can falsify EKG readings. In some cases it has been shown that women with implants can show a false diagnosis of a heart attack. Again, it is important to note that breast implants do not increase the risk of heart attack in any way. But they could affect the accuracy of the reading. More research needs to be conducted in this area. If you are concerned, you might consider a baseline EKG before undergoing breast surgery.
4. Can I breastfeed after getting implants?
There are different ways your plastic surgeon can make the incision for the placement of breast implants. In most cases, it should not interfere with the production of breast milk or with the ability to nurse. If you had a breast augmentation because your breasts were underdeveloped, you may not have enough breast milk, but that is not changed by the fact that you got implants.
You should also be aware that the size – and shape – of your breasts will change with pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as afterwards. It is not uncommon to have a change in several bra sizes in either direction, especially with multiple pregnancies. But that doesn’t mean that your ability to breastfeed will be affected by the decision to have a breast augmentation. Some women choose to wait with breast surgery until after they are done having children. This ensures that the shape of your breasts will no longer be prone to changing.
But for many women who have small or asymmetrical breasts, waiting that long may not be their preferred option. If you think the size of your breasts is too large and are considering a breast reduction, you may want to wait until after breastfeeding, at which time most likely you will naturally have smaller breasts. But again, waiting this long may not be desirable for you. Whichever timing you choose, you can rest assured that breast surgery will not keep you from breastfeeding your newborn.
5. Will my breasts be swollen after breast surgery?
Yes, most likely your breasts will be swollen after a breast augmentation, as is the case with any kind of surgery. This swelling is likely to subside after about three days, but it may take several weeks for it to go away completely and for your best results to show. It may take several months for your implants to “settle” into their intended position. An experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon will make sure that your recovery period is as swift as possible.
Nevertheless, he or she will advise you to avoid heavy lifting for several weeks after your surgery so as not to strain your chest muscle. This is a particular concern if you have small children. (And yes, this also covers having sex, as it can strain those same muscles just like any exercise – so be sure to ask your surgeon about when it is safe to have sex after your breast surgery).
You will also have to sleep on your back for up to two months post-op to ensure that you don’t strain your incisions. If you typically sleep on your side or stomach, you may need to “train” yourself to sleep on your back prior to the surgery.
We hope that we have helped you better understand breast surgery and its consequences. If you are having your surgery before summer, you might also want to read Your Implants in Water and Sun for any questions about the impact of water and sun on your breast implants. If you still have questions about breast implants or breast augmentation surgery that we haven’t answered, please do not hesitate to contact us.