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What Is a Breast Augmentation?

A breast augmentation, or augmentation mammoplasty, is an operation performed to enhance the size of a woman’s breasts through the use of silicone or saline implants. This procedure is frequently used to restore volume changes after pregnancy or weight loss, but it can be performed on any woman whose breasts have fully matured. Breast augmentation with different-sized implants is particularly helpful in correcting breast asymmetry, a condition where dramatic size differences exist between the two breasts. In cases where significant breast sagging also exists, a simultaneous breast lift is usually required; and this combined procedure is termed a mastopexy-augmentation. Breast enhancement surgery is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the country.

Our doctors always approach breast augmentation surgery with the utmost attention to detail.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Breast Augmentation?

To determine if you are a good candidate for breast augmentation surgery, Dr. Brian Braithwaite or Dr. Lorri Cobbins will review your health history and perform an examination during your consultation. You will be given the opportunity to select from various implant sizes to help understand the volume changes and implant dimensions. We will also take preoperative photos during your visit. You may be required to have a mammogram before your surgery, depending on your age and last study. During the consultation, our doctors will take time to understand your goals and desires, and they will review available techniques and incision sites.

How to Choose the Right Breast Implants

While Dr. Braithwaite and Dr. Cobbins have extensive experience with all aspects of breast augmentation, their unique expertise concerns selecting the right implant for the right patient. Since today’s implants come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, patients must decide between saline or silicone, smooth or textured, round or anatomic, and a host of varying implant projections. Like Drs. Braithwaite and Cobbins, a thoughtful plastic surgeon works with the patient to select the best implant for years to come. Gone are the days when most patients received the same inappropriate implants, followed by expensive revision work. During your breast augmentation consultation with Dr. Braithwaite or Dr. Cobbins, appropriate measurements, soft tissue characteristics, and chest wall anatomy will dictate the optimal implants for the most durable result. Our doctors always approach breast augmentation surgery with the utmost attention to detail.

What Benefits Do Breast Implants Offer?

Each woman experiences breast augmentation a little differently, and as a result the benefits she discovers can also vary. In addition to providing larger, fuller, and firmer breasts, breast implants can also give a boost in confidence. Many patients who receive breast implants find their self-esteem improves, which has a positive impact on other areas of their lives as well. Feeling comfortable and happy in your body is a lifelong goal for most people, and breast augmentation is one way some people choose to help fulfill that ambition. That said, it’s important to understand that breast implants will not change who you are; they simply address a specific concern. Our plastic surgeons will review the breast implants benefits and discuss your hopes to determine if breast augmentation is right for you.

I’ve been considering having breast augmentation for well over 10 years but my fears of possible complications stopped me from doing it sooner. I’ve had 5 consultations with top plastic surgeons in the Chicago land area but Dr. Cobbins was the only one who took the time to talk to me about all of my concerns (and I had a lot!) I never felt rushed and I felt really comfortable. She’s very personable and knowledgeable, I had no doubts that she was the right choice for me. My procedure went really well and I’m beyond happy with my results.

Mina Mihajlovic

May 04, 2019


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What Breast Implant Types Are Available?

Silicone Implants

Silicone breast implants are once again approved by the FDA for use in breast augmentation surgery. For study purposes, silicone implants were pulled from the United States market for more than ten years, but they were always used in Canada and Europe without interruption. Perfectly safe devices, today’s silicone breast implants are far better than their predecessors. Current implants have thicker, more durable outer shells and are more resistant to leakage or rupture. In addition, the silicone inside today’s implant is thicker and more cohesive, making it far less likely to migrate in case of leakage or rupture. Although they do not deflate the way saline implants can, an MRI is sometimes necessary to detect a problem with silicone implants, unless physical exam findings are obvious. However, since no implant lasts forever, patients should understand that their implants will need to be removed or replaced at some point in their lives.

Most patients find that silicone breast implants feel softer and more natural than saline implants, but their appearance can be very similar with either type of implant. Silicone breast implants arrive pre-filled from the manufacturer and their volume cannot be altered by the surgeon. As a result, these implants require a slightly longer incision for placement. Although silicone breast implants cost more than saline implants, many patients find their natural feel advantage to be well worth the added cost. And just like with saline products, silicone implant manufacturers offer both a free limited warranty and a free lifetime replacement warranty in case their products are defective in any way.

Saline Implants

Saline breast implants are very safe devices and are approved by the FDA for use in breast augmentation. Saline implants arrive unfilled from the manufacturer and the doctor fills them with a sterile saltwater solution during the procedure. One advantage to their unfilled state is that Dr. Braithwaite or Dr. Cobbins can position these implants using somewhat smaller incisions than those required for silicone implants. Another advantage is that additional fluid can be added to one or both sides during surgery, a useful tactic for patients with asymmetry of size or projection. Saline implants also cost less than silicone implants.

Although many patients find that saline implants feel more firm and less natural than silicone implants, breast appearance can be very similar with either type of implant. With saline implants, there is no concern about silicone implant rupture in aging implants; instead, old saline implants tend to deflate quickly when they develop even the smallest hole, and the saltwater solution is harmlessly absorbed by the body. Since no implant lasts forever, patients should understand that their implants will need to be removed or replaced at some point in their lives. And just like with silicone products, saline implant manufacturers offer both a free limited warranty and a free lifetime replacement warranty in case their products are defective in any way.
During your consultation with Dr. Braithwaite or Dr. Cobbins, you can select from the full range of implant options, and they will help guide you through your choices.

Implant Shapes

Breast implants now come in many shapes and profiles as well as materials, and the best option for you will depend on your anatomy and desired outcome. Traditional breast implants are round, which can provide more fullness at the upper pole (for more “cleavage”). Shaped implants are designed to have a more natural-looking appearance built in, so they are teardrop-shaped, like many women’s natural breasts. Projection, or profile, refers to how much forward volume the implant has, which will affect your silhouette. All of these styles are available so you can best achieve a look that ideally suits your body type and aesthetic goals.

During your consultation with Dr. Braithwaite or Dr. Cobbins, you can select from the full range of implant options, and they will help guide you through your choices.

What Should I Expect During the Breast Augmentation Procedure?

Breast implants may be placed either under the breast tissue or under the pectoralis major muscle, depending on tissue characteristics. Common incision sites usually include the crease below the breast or around the areola, both of which tend to be very inconspicuous. Dr. Braithwaite and Dr. Cobbins will make every effort to minimize scar length. Breast augmentation surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure under general anesthesia, so patients are generally able to return home later the same day under the care and supervision of a friend or family member.

Incision Locations

There are three breast augmentation incision locations that are most commonly used to place an implant, namely inframammary fold, or breast fold; periareolar, and transaxillary. Although there is not one ideal location for every patient, our doctors will go over with you in detail the advantages and disadvantages to each approach. By choosing the proper implant size and style, excellent results can be obtained with any incision.

  • Underarm Transaxillary Incision

    Breast implants can be placed through a small incision located within the underarm area in a technique known as the transaxillary approach. One benefit of this approach is that the entry point for the implant is inconspicuous and there is an absence of a scar on the breast surface. Although this incision is most often used with saline implants, smaller sized silicone implants can also be placed through this incision. Major disadvantages to using this incision include the higher risk of implant malposition when using this incision and the risk of trauma to the nerve that carries sensation to the upper half of the arm.

  • Nipple Periareolar Incision

    In this approach, an incision is made along the lower half of the areola (ring of pigmented skin surrounding the nipple) through which a breast implant can be placed. This technique allows for meticulous placement of either silicone or saline implants. This approach is also quite helpful when lowering the inframammary fold is necessary or in cases of breast revision for reinforcement of the inframammary fold. Although there is a scar on the breast, it is well hidden because it blends with the dark-light skin junction of the breast.

  • Breast Fold Inframmary Incision

    One of the most common and popular incision locations for both implant types is the inframammary fold, which is located where the underside of the breast tissue meets the skin of the chest. In our opinion, this approach is the most precise for creation of the breast implant pocket and offers the greatest ease for implant positioning. Once healed, the scar should become softer, smoother, and relatively unnoticeable both in and out of clothing. This incision is most commonly used by our doctors at The Aesthetic Institute of Chicago.

Implant Placement

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    Breast implants placed above the muscle are known as subglandular. The advantage of this approach is that often it is less invasive than submuscular and there can be less pain post-operatively. Subglandular implant placement also creates more upper-pole volume and is considered a reasonable choice in cases of larger and more pendulous breasts, or breasts that may sit low on the chest wall. A disadvantage to this approach is it may look less natural and the appearance of wrinkling and rippling may be more likely. This position also creates a challenge with future mammograms.

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    Subpectoral implants are placed beneath the pectoralis major muscle. This approach offers natural-looking results and reduces the risk of visible wrinkling and rippling. We recommend this technique in patients with less soft-tissue coverage (A or B cup breasts). It also continues to be popular with patients seeking a breast lift with augmentation.

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    A variation of subpectoral implant placement, this method involves positioning the implant partially underneath the muscle. The different types of dual plane techniques release the muscle at different levels for improvement in breast shape. Dual-plane is popular among the majority of breast implant patients but specifically for women with mild breast droop (ptosis) and a desire for greater lower-pole volume (as opposed to upper pole fullness).

What Will Recovery from Breast Augmentation Be Like?

Following breast augmentation, we instruct all breast enhancement patients to wear surgical or sports bras. Some minor swelling and/or bruising may be apparent in the breasts initially, but these symptoms are temporary and should gradually dissipate over time. Any discomfort or soreness that is experienced can usually be controlled easily with narcotic pain medicine, and patients may drive and return to work once they are no longer taking medication. To allow for proper healing, all strenuous activities—such as heavy lifting, sports, vigorous exercise—will generally need to be avoided for several weeks.

What Will My Breast Augmentation Scars Look Like?

To place breast implants, a tiny incision will typically be made either around the areola or in the inframammary crease below the breast. Due to their location, breast augmentation scars tend to be relatively inconspicuous, and the majority of patients can expect them to naturally diminish in visibility over time. Ultimately, the final appearance of any scarring will depend on one’s unique healing process and how closely scar care instructions are followed after surgery.

How Much Does Breast Augmentation Cost?

Each breast augmentation procedure performed at our practice is custom-tailored to meet the specific needs and goals of the patient. As a result, the cost of treatment will vary by individual based on factors such as implant composition (saline or silicone), the particular style and texture of the selected implants, and whether or not the augmentation is combined with a breast lift and/or another procedure to create a Mommy Makeover. All of these components will be discussed in full detail during a consultation with one of our doctors, at which time a personalized price estimate can be provided. In the meantime, you may visit our breast augmentation cost page for more information on factors that contribute to the overall expenses.

Can I Still Breastfeed with Breast Implants?

If you are able to breastfeed before undergoing a breast augmentation, you should be able to do so after your procedure, so long as the implants are placed safely and correctly by a board-certified plastic surgeon. The misbelief that implants interfere with one’s ability to breastfeed stems from the fact that some women are incapable of breastfeeding in the first place, which is sometimes wrongly attributed to the presence of implants when a patient has never attempted to breastfeed before her augmentation.

Additional Breast Augmentation FAQs

Can breast augmentation restore lost volume?

Contrary to what many people assume, breast augmentation can be performed for purposes other than simply increasing the size of one’s breasts. For women who have lost breast volume as a result of pregnancy, weight fluctuations, or the natural process of aging, breast implants can help restore shape and fullness for a rejuvenated appearance. Additionally, breast augmentation can help improve breast symmetry for those who are bothered by size or contour inconsistencies.

Will breast implants interfere with mammogram results?

For women who have breast implants, particular mammogram screening methods can be utilized to help ensure more accurate and conclusive results are obtained. For example, if implants are located below the muscle, mammography technologists can employ an “implant displacement” technique that involves pushing the implant in one direction while pulling the breast tissue in another. In addition to the four traditional images, this allows several special photos to be taken for a more complete view of each breast.

In the event breast implants are placed above the muscle, or if the implant displacement approach does not produce a satisfactory reading, an MRI can usually be an effective solution.

Contact The Aesthetic Institute of Chicago

If you have any more questions, or if you would like to schedule a consultation for breast augmentation at our Chicago plastic surgery practice, please contact us via email or call (312) 361-8108 today!