A Complete Guide to Breast Augmentation

A Complete Guide to Breast Augmentation

A Complete Guide to Breast Augmentation

Medically referred to as augmentation mammoplasty, a breast augmentation is an elective cosmetic procedure that increases the size, shape, and projection of a patient’s breasts. In most cases, this is done by placing saline or silicone breast implants, though fat grafting is also becoming increasingly popular.

There are several reasons a woman may decide to undergo breast augmentation. Some may be unhappy with the size or shape of their breasts, while others may want to restore volume that has been lost due to pregnancy or breastfeeding. No matter what your individual motivator is, understanding the procedure, what is involved, and how to prepare is a critical first step.

What is breast augmentation?

Breast augmentation describes the plastic surgery procedure used to add volume, fullness, and projection to a patient's breasts. This is usually achieved by inserting saline or silicone gel implants into a pocket beneath the chest muscles or directly behind the breast tissue. Fat grafting is another option for those who don’t want to use an implant. In these instances, fat is taken from other areas of the body, such as the thighs or abdomen, and transferred to the breasts.

The popularity and ubiquity of breast augmentation varies around the world. In the US, plastic surgeons perform about 300,000 breast implant surgeries every year. Other countries where breast augmentation is popular include Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Italy, and Germany.

Why would someone want breast augmentation?

Many women choose to undergo breast augmentation surgery for a variety of reasons. In many cases, it is for aesthetic purposes, to enhance the size and shape of their breasts. In other cases, it is a medical necessity; for example, to restore or reconstruct the breasts following a mastectomy due to cancer. The most common reasons you might get breast augmentation include:

  • You believe your breasts are too small and you want to increase their size
  • One or both of your breasts is abnormally shaped, affecting the way you dress
  • Pregnancy, breastfeeding, or weight loss has caused you to lose volume in your breasts
  • A mastectomy or lumpectomy has caused a noticeable change in the shape or size of your breasts
  • The size or shape of your breasts is affecting your self-confidence

Regardless of the reason, the benefits of breast augmentation surgery include an enhanced appearance, higher self-esteem, and an improved look and overall fit when you wear certain clothes.

What Breast Augmentation Can't Do

Like all procedures, there are limitations to what breast augmentation can do. It’s important to know these before getting your surgery, so you understand the realistic outcomes. Breast augmentation cannot do the following:

  • Increase the elasticity of aging skin on the breasts, which may cause sagging
  • Guarantee a specific outcome, as each body is different and will respond differently to implants
  • Fix extremely saggy breasts (this requires a breast lift)
  • Correct asymmetry or flaws in the chest wall (this requires a breast reconstruction)
  • Help with issues such as inverted nipples, chronic breast pain, or discharge

Candidates for breast augmentation

Breast augmentation is deeply personal; it revolves around one of the features of a woman's body that can make them feel self-conscious or uncomfortable. It's important to go through breast augmentation only for yourself, not someone else. You're a good candidate for breast augmentation if you meet most or all of the following criteria:

  • You are not pregnant or nursing
  • Your expectations for the procedure are realistic and you understand the potential risks
  • You're in good physical and emotional health
  • You have enough breast tissue to cover the implant
  • Your breasts are misshapen due to either natural or medical reasons
  • You are unhappy with the size (too small) of your breasts
  • You're confident in your decision to get the surgery and are doing it for yourself

Patient satisfaction is statistically high when patients undergo breast augmentation for the right reasons. According to recent data, 80% of patients were happy with their breasts, and 86% were satisfied with the overall result. Patients also reported high levels of satisfaction in their psychosocial well-being (100%), sexual well-being (100%), and physical well-being (90%).

The cost of breast augmentation surgery

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a breast augmentation surgery is $4,516. The actual cost of the procedure depends on several factors, including:

  • Where you live
  • The type of implants used
  • The experience of your surgeon
  • Any additional treatments, such as a breast lift
  • Anesthesia fees
  • Medications prescribed post-op

All things considered, the true cost of breast augmentation winds up between $6,000 and $12,000.

Risks associated with breast augmentation

The most common risks are infection, capsular contracture (scar tissue formation around the implant), and a change in sensation in the nipples or breasts. Other potential risks include bleeding and numbness around the incision site.

Most patients also have scars underneath the breasts—this is unavoidable, as the implants have to be placed through small incisions. The visibility of the scars can vary based on your body type and skin tone. Over time, the implant position might change, resulting in an unsatisfactory appearance and the potential need for a revision surgery.

What to expect during your first consultation

During your first consultation with your surgeon, be prepared to discuss:

  • Your expectations, desired results, and reasons for wanting the surgery
  • Your medical history and any previous surgeries
  • Any medications and supplements that you’re currently taking
  • Familial history pertaining to breast cancer and other diseases

Your surgeon will also assess the current size and shape of your breasts, as well as the amount of existing breast tissue. If you’re a smoker, they may advise quitting in advance to reduce the risk of complications during surgery. They may also need to take pictures for medical records.

What questions should you ask your plastic surgeon?

When selecting a surgeon to carry out your procedure, you should rigorously vet them for experience and board certification. You should ask questions around the following topics:

  • American Board of Plastic Surgery certification
  • Educational history, training, credentials, and years of experience
  • Hospital accreditation by nationally-recognized agencies like The Joint Commission
  • Success rate and patient satisfaction reviews
  • Safety protocols being followed in the operating room
  • The types of implants they offer, their preferences (saline versus silicone), and why
  • Recommendations for your specific procedure
  • Before and after photos of previous patients
  • Any follow-up care and support available after the procedure


Breast augmentation is a major decision, and it should not be made lightly. It's important that you discuss your expectations and desired results with your surgeon during your first consultation to ensure a successful outcome. Make sure you have realistic expectations about the procedure, too, as no surgery can guarantee perfect results. With the right preparation and care, you can be confident in the results of your breast augmentation.