Breast Augmentation Part 1 of 4: The Patient

There are generally three groups of women who frequently consider Breast Augmentation:

  1. Nature “missed a beat” during breast development: This usually occurs during puberty where the breasts may not develop at all or only develop slightly, resulting in a “bowling pin” type of a look. Apart from making one feel inadequate because there is a disconnect between the narrower chest to the wider hips, it also makes it difficult buying clothes that fit. Some people revert to using fillers and enhancers, but these techniques never seem to compensate, are temporary measures, and they never feel like a natural part of you in the same way as breast augmentation. Breasts can also develop unevenly during puberty, causing both difficulty in buying and wearing clothes, as well as, making one feel abnormal or like a “freak”.
  2. Nature “took a toll” during pregnancy and breastfeeding: During these times, the breast enlarges and deflates repeatedly. This cycle stretches the breast skin especially in the lower pole, resulting in stretch marks. After breastfeeding, the breast tissue itself may “melt away” (especially in the upper pole), sometimes to a size less than before pregnancy. However, the skin never shrinks back to its original size, therefore, the breasts will appear saggy (think of the skin like an overstretched elastic band which frays at the edges). This is where a breast augmentation and/or a breast lift (mastopexy) can be of great benefit to restore the shape, size, and contour of the breasts to the pre-pregnancy state.
  3. Nature “didn’t match desires” of women who want to enhance the shape and appearance of their breasts: Some women want to be the best version of themselves. Others have underdeveloped breasts or have uneven breasts that makes buying clothes difficult. While other women want to “marry” or improve the balance between their chest with their hips. Breast augmentation to enhance the chest further or balance the hips can make an enormous difference to ones’ body shape and self-esteem.

Women who fall into any one of the above groups have every right to want to optimise any aspect of their breast appearance. If this involves breast augmentation, then she needs to also think about:

These factors will be individually discussed in subsequent blog posts. Remember that no choice is perfect and that every choice has trade-offs (you need to know them) as well as benefits. Therefore, choose carefully.

 

Question: What are your reasons for wanting to have Breast Augmentation? You can leave a comment below.

Breast Augmentation Part 2 of 4: The Procedure

The things you need to know to make better choices regarding Breast Augmentation are the following:

 

1)  Match your desires with reality

The surgeon can only work with the issues you bring him. If you want the best result, you have to balance what you want with what your breast tissue will allow you to have and what it can support over time. Also, no woman has two breasts that are the same, and no surgeon can create two breasts exactly the same. Cup size is extremely variable and inconsistent from one brand of bra to another. Women tend to buy a bra that they can fill (or that pushes their breast tissue where they want it to go to create a specific appearance), not necessarily a bra that fits.

Last of all, the bigger the breast you request (i.e. the bigger the breast augmentation), the worse it will look over time. You can’t pick out a breast from a book or magazine and expect the same result unless the woman in the picture looked exactly like you before surgery.

 

2)  Know about the implants

Breast implants are not perfect, don’t last forever, and require some maintenance. If you can’t accept these facts, don’t have a breast augmentation. If you do, then you need to think about:

a) Implant pocket location

Implants can be placed in front of, or behind the muscle. There are less capsular contracture rates when the implant is placed behind the muscle and you can obtain better or more accurate mammograms too. Also, in thin women, behind the muscle is preferable because adequate tissue coverage is most important. Think when you lie in bed, if you are covered by a bed sheet only, one can see the contours of your body a lot better than if you were to be covered by a doona cover, where they are less distinct. Having said that, an implant placed in front of the muscle, will always more predictably control breast shape. How do you decide whether to go in front or behind the muscle? If you pinch the breast tissue in the upper pole and it’s < 2 cm, your best option would be to go beneath the muscle, otherwise, you run risks of seeing the edges of the implant.

One aspect that often gets overlooked is the way the pocket is created. Blunt dissection techniques are fast and efficient but create more tissue trauma, tear tissues, create more bleeding, and result in longer recovery times. Electrocautery dissection techniques use an electric current to seal blood vessels and are thus, less traumatic and have shorter recovery times.

b) Implant Shape

Shapes of implants can either be round or teardrop (anatomical). There is a trend today of women wanting more upper pole fullness and therefore opting for round implants. Given that the breast is constantly evolving and that over time there is a loss of upper pole fullness as the breast tissue “melts away”, breast augmentation with round implants may be a good option for maintaining upper pole fullness in the long term. The other added advantage is that if it rotates, it doesn’t affect the shape of the breast. In contrast, a teardrop implant which is fuller at the bottom and tapers at the top will give an odd shape to the breast if it does rotate. However, breast augmentation with teardrop implants may be better in women who have oddly shaped chests (either long or wide for example) because you can tailor the dimensions of the implant more specifically to fit the breast “foot print” on the chest. Tear drop implants may also be beneficial in women with mild sagging breasts who do not want scars on their breast from elevating the nipple. Tear drop implants have a “bucket-handle” effect on the nipple, elevating them to a higher position on the breast.

c) Implant surface (or shell)

The surface of the implant is made of a silicone rubber and can be textured or smooth. Textured implants have a lower risk of capsular contracture than smooth implants.

d) Implant “stuffing”

The stuffing or filler of the implant can be silicone or saline. Saline is salt-water and is harmless if the implant ruptures. Its biggest disadvantage is rippling and that it takes up the ambient temperature, meaning if you went to the beach for a swim, when you got out, your implants would feel cold. Silicone gel filler, on the other hand, is more natural, more predictable and it is safe. There are grades of silicone gel that range from “jelly” consistency to that of “gummy bears”.

e) Implant size

Remember, the larger the implant, the more tradeoffs and risks you’ll encounter, especially long term.

f) Incision location

The scar can be placed in three areas. The breast fold incision offers the best degree of control for the wide range of breast types and is the commonest type used by far. The periareolar incision (around the nipple-areola) usually heals well because it’s located in the thinner skin but is limited and can’t be used if the areola is not large enough for access. The biggest problem is the increased exposure of the implant to bacteria if any of the breast ducts were to be cut. The armpit (axillary) incision places no scar on the breast but takes longer to perform and harder to control the position of the breast fold.

 

3)  Get well acquainted with the tradeoffs, problems, and risks

Tradeoffs always depend on the details of each specific case, the characteristics of your tissues, and the experience of your surgeon with different options. Every breast augmentation operation carries inherent risks and medical complications are not totally preventable by you or your surgeon. Remember, don’t have a breast augmentation unless you thoroughly understand and accept the potential risks and tradeoffs of the procedure.

 

4)  Know about the recovery

The more tissue trauma caused by your surgery, the longer and more difficult your recovery. That is why it takes longer to recover from a pocket created behind the muscle. Excessively large implants can produce excessive stretch marks that cause more discomfort and temporary or permanent sensory loss. Most women return back to normal duties within four weeks and athletic activities in six weeks.

Question:  Do you think that the benefits far outweigh the trade-offs for breast augmentation? You can leave a comment below.

Breast Lift and Augmentation: The facts you need to know!

The goals of breast lift with or without breast augmentation are to restore shape, volume, and nipple-areola position. However, simultaneous breast lift and augmentation present multiple problems, specifically because it becomes harder to control all of the variables affecting the outcome when combining the two procedures. No single method is best to treat all types of sagging (ptosis), and maintaining a good blood supply to the nipple-areola complex is of paramount importance, so a staged procedure may be necessary at times.

Why is combining a breast lift and breast augmentation the most difficult of all cosmetic breast surgery procedures? The surgery involves manoeuvres that can be counterproductive to each other since the skin is being removed and when closed back up again, pushes the breast in and upwards, whilst an implant stretches the skin in an out and in a downwards direction. These conflicting tensions can adversely affect the blood supply to the breast and skin which may affect wound healing, scar quality etc. Positioning of both the nipple and breast fold also becomes more challenging during simultaneous lift and augmentation. Secondly, no two breasts are the same, and each patient is seeking a different endpoint, sometimes with unrealistic expectations.

The first thing that I do when evaluating a patient for a breast lift is to ask them if they are happy with their present breast volume. You can simply do this by pinching the skin below the breast and pushing it up where it belongs. Most women are amazed at how little of breast volume they actually have. If that is the case, then volume enhancement, usually with an implant, is necessary along with a lift. If the volume is satisfactory, then a breast lift will suffice.

The second thing to do is grade the amount of breast sagging. This is done by using Regnault’s classification which looks at the position of the nipple as follows:

1)  Grade 1 (minor): nipple at breast fold
2)  Grade 2 (moderate): nipple is below the fold but above the lower breast contour
3)  Grade 3 (major): nipple is below the fold and below breast contour
4)  Pseudoptosis (“false sagging”): nipple lies above the fold, there is little breast volume, some of which lies below the fold

Other characteristics that one looks out for are:

1) Skin: elasticity and excess;
2)  Breast tissue:  firm and fibrous or soft and fatty; and
3)  Skin-breast tissue relationship: firm and adherent or loosely adherent and is the breast full or empty. Skin quality and the skin-breast tissue relationship are the key factors in determining the breast lift procedure and the quality and longevity of the final result.

As a general rule, if the skin elasticity is normal, the breast envelope is full, and the skin is adherent to the underlying breast tissue, then the scars would be limited, and vice versa. In other words, one progresses from limited scars such as periareolar scars (scars around the nipple-areola complex) to periareolar-vertical scars (scars that run down the front of the breast below the nipple-areola complex) to more extensive, full-length inverted-T or anchor scars.

For the patient with “pseudoptosis,” inserting a breast implant alone, usually tear-dropped shaped, is typically all that is needed. For Grade I sagging, an implant alone or a lift plus an implant may be required.

Depending on a number of factors, the lift may be performed via a crescent, periareolar, or vertical approach. A vertical approach is preferred if there is significant looseness below the nipple. However, the periareolar incision is generally used in just a few specific situations. Since this skin-only incision is unable to lift much weight, it is an option in women with small breasts who need only a small amount of nipple repositioning, usually < 2 cm.

In addition, it is considered advantageous in women with pointed, conical or tubular breasts, because it causes areolar flattening and eliminates the tubular nature. The main issue I have with performing a periareolar breast lift is its tendency to cause areolar flattening and leave the areola more prone to stretching.

In Grade 2 sagging, especially where the breasts are large and heavy, a vertical breast lift is often required because it will effectively lift the breast tissue to achieve increased projection. However, a periareolar incision may still be considered for women with light breasts. When performing a vertical breast lift, the procedure may be converted into a short inverted-T lift if a difficulty is encountered controlling the nipple-to-breast fold distance.

With Grade 3 sagging, the lift technique depends on the nipple-to-breast fold distance. If it is > 10 cm, most surgeons perform an inverted-T breast lift. Otherwise, vertical breast lift remains an option that will enable control of the nipple-to-breast fold distance, as the vertical scar tends to shorten in the post-operative period with scar contraction.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Tim – Sydney Cosmetic Plastic Surgeon

www.cosmeticculture.com.au
www.drtim.com.au