Breast Augmentation Surgery: Everything You Need to Know

Cosmetic surgeon applying a protective bandage round the client's breasts after surgery.
Ian Hooton/Science Photo Library/Getty Images
In This Article

Breast augmentation, also referred to as augmentation mammoplasty, is surgery to increase the size of your breasts using implants. It may be used to enlarge smaller breasts, correct asymmetrical breasts, or to regain fullness after weight loss or pregnancy. 

Steps to Take Before Breast Augmentation
 Verywell / Bailey Mariner

What Is Breast Augmentation?

In breast augmentation, implants filled with saline (sterile salt water) or silicone are placed behind the breast tissue or under the chest muscle to enlarge or enhance the shape of the breasts.

You’ll either receive general anesthesia or intravenous sedation for the surgery. It is usually performed as an outpatient procedure but may sometimes require a hospital stay.

Contraindications

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved breast augmentation in patients younger than 18 years old. For that age group, breast development may not be complete, and teenagers may not realize the risk or be ready psychologically to handle the outcome of the surgery.

Other contraindications including being pregnant or breastfeeding, a current infection in the breast, an active cancer, history of autoimmune disease, current radiation treatment, and unstable medical conditions.

Purpose of Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation increases the fullness or size of your breasts. You may be considering the surgery if you feel your breasts are too small, if they’ve lost fullness with pregnancy or aging, or if you feel they developed asymmetrically.

Getting breast augmentation surgery is a personal decision that should be considered carefully. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits and what to expect from results.

How to Prepare

Before the surgery, you’ll schedule a consultation with the surgeon. During this appointment, you’ll have a chance to ask questions about the surgery including risks, benefits, typical results, recovery times, complications, and the number of breast augmentation surgeries you’ll need.

Also, talk with your surgeon about their medical background and experience, such as certifications, where they were trained, how many years of training they have, and whether the facility is accredited.

Your surgeon will perform a breast exam before the surgery. You may also need to get a blood test and have a mammogram or breast X-ray beforehand.

Location

Your surgery should take place in an accredited ambulatory surgical center or in a hospital for your safety.

What to Wear

Wear or bring loose-fitting clothing, including a shirt that buttons or zips in the front. You’ll change into a hospital gown for the procedure.

Food and Drink

Your doctor will probably ask you not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the surgery. This will ensure your stomach is empty before the surgery. If your doctor has requested you take medicine on the day of the surgery, take it with a small sip of water.

Medications

Days before the surgery, your doctor may ask you to stop taking aspirin, Advil (ibuprofen), Coumadin (warfarin), and any other medications that may cause problems with bleeding. Ask your doctor if you should continue taking any medications on the day of the surgery.

To avoid complications, let your doctor know before the surgery if you’re taking any medications, including prescriptions or any over-the-counter drugs, herbs, and vitamins.

What to Bring

Make sure you remember any paperwork and a change of clothes if you want a separate outfit to wear home or if you’re spending the night. Make arrangements beforehand for someone to drive you home from the surgery center or hospital and to help you around the house for a couple of days after the surgery.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

Stop smoking at least three to six weeks before the surgery. Smoking can reduce the size of blood vessels, meaning less blood flow and oxygen.

If you're undergoing breast augmentation surgery, that can lead to tissue death, delayed wound healing, increased pain, blood clots, and life-threatening complications such as stroke, heart attack, blood clots, and pneumonia. To avoid serious complications, let your doctor know if you’ve been smoking in the weeks before the surgery.

What to Expect on the Day of Surgery

When you arrive at the hospital or surgery center, nurses will likely perform health checks and ask you about your medical history. You’ll meet with the surgeon, who should go over the details of the procedure with you before you go into the surgery.

During the Surgery

The first step in the surgery is receiving anesthesia. Your doctor will help you decide beforehand if you should get intravenous sedation or general anesthesia.

Most people get general anesthesia, which allows you to be asleep during the surgery and unable to feel discomfort. With IV sedation, you’ll be sedated but awake. Localized anesthesia is also used with IV sedation to numb the affected area and block pain.

There are several different incision options to place the saline or silicone implants:

  • Inframammary: A short incision is made in the crease underneath the breast in the natural skin fold. This is the most common technique.
  • Peri-areolar: The incision is made around the edge of your areola, the darkened area around the nipple.
  • Trans-axillary: An incision is made in the armpit, and the surgeon uses an endoscope, a camera with surgical instruments at the end, to place the implant.
  • Transumbilical: An incision is made just above the belly button, and the implants are brought up with an endoscope to be placed in the breasts. The implants are then filled with saline.

The implants will either be placed under the pectoral muscles or over the pectoral muscle and directly behind the breast tissue. Talk with your surgeon beforehand to confirm which surgical technique is best for you, depending on your anatomy and your desired outcome.

The procedure usually takes one to two hours. The surgeon will then close the incisions with sutures, skin adhesive, or surgical tape.

After the Surgery

After the surgery, you’ll be taken to a recovery area so you can be monitored. You will probably be able to go home when the anesthesia wears off and you can walk, drink water, and get to the bathroom safely. Your surgeon will give you instructions for recovery and will make sure you have a follow-up appointment scheduled.

You’ll likely have gauze wrapped around your breasts, an elastic bandage, or a surgical bra. Your surgeon may prescribe medication for pain or antibiotics to prevent infection. These may be prescribed before the surgery. Drainage tubes may be attached to your breast, which should be removed in about three days.

Recovery

You will probably feel some pain for about a week after the surgery, and you may experience soreness and swelling for a few weeks. Rest and limit physical activity for the first several days until your surgeon gives you permission to resume your activity level. Limit any strenuous exercise for about two to four weeks.

Your surgeon may suggest massaging your breasts starting five days after the surgery. This can help to decrease the risk of hardened scar tissue around the implant called capsular contracture. Ask your surgeon first before you start massaging to make sure that it won’t cause any problems.

Your surgeon will give you instructions on wearing your support garment, whether it’s a soft bra or elastic band.

Healing

Some surgeons may advise you to clean the incision site and apply ointments, while others may tell you not to clean it and to keep the bandages on. Since instructions vary, check with your surgeon on what’s best for you.

Possible Future Surgeries

Breast implants may need to be replaced at some point, so future surgeries may be needed. Check with your surgeon if you have questions about how long your implants will last.

A Word From Verywell

Your surgeon should provide you with a comprehensive guide to recovery. If you experience any issues or complications, contact your surgeon immediately.

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Article Sources
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