An Overview of Breast Augmentation Surgery

Medically Reviewed By Catherine Hannan, M.D.

Breast augmentation surgery involves surgically reshaping the breast in order to make it larger. Many people seek breast augmentation for cosmetic or aesthetic reasons. Doctors also perform the procedure to reconstruct the breast following other types of breast surgery. Breast augmentation, or breast enlargement or augmentation mammaplasty, is a common but major surgery. The surgery has potential risks and complications.

Read on to learn more about breast augmentation surgery. This article explains why and how it may be performed, how to prepare for it, and what to expect afterward.

Why is breast augmentation surgery performed?

An adult female wearing a lacy white bra
Mihajlo Ckovric/Stocksy United

Your doctor may recommend breast augmentation surgery if you want larger or more shapely breasts for cosmetic reasons. Doctors also perform this surgery to reconstruct breasts following breast surgery, such as Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source mastectomy.

Not everyone is a good candidate for breast augmentation surgery. You may have less invasive options to enhance breast size or shape. Talk with your doctor about all treatment choices before choosing breast augmentation surgery.

Learn more about who may not be a good candidate for breast augmentation.

What are the different approaches to breast augmentation surgery?

Incision approaches to breast augmentation surgery include:

  • Inframammary: Your surgeon makes an incision in the natural fold on the underside of the breast. They insert an implant through the opening.
  • Periareolar: Your surgeon makes an incision around the dark area that surrounds the nipple and inserts an implant.
  • Transaxillary: This is a minimally invasive procedure. Your surgeon makes a small incision in your underarm and inserts the implant through the opening.
  • Transumbilical: This is also minimally invasive. Your surgeon makes an incision near the belly button, feeds the implant up to the breast, and fills the implant.

Types of breast implants

The types of breast implants include:

  • saline implants, which are filled with salt water
  • silicone gel implants

Both of these types have silicone rubber shells.

Some people may elect to undergo a fat transfer instead of having an implant. This involves removing fat from another area of the body, such as the stomach or thighs, and injecting it into the breast.

Types of implant placements

The types of breast implant placements include:

  • Subglandular or submammary placement: Your surgeon positions the implant in a pocket they make. The pocket is under the breast tissue and on top of the pectoral muscle. Your doctor may also refer to this as subfascial placement.
  • Submuscular placement: Your surgeon places the implant in a pocket they make under the pectoral muscle.

How do I prepare for my breast augmentation surgery?

Preparation for breast augmentation surgery may include:

  • undergoing preoperative testing, such as a breast exam or mammogram
  • answering questions about your medical history and medications, supplements, or vitamins you take
  • stopping or taking medications exactly as directed by your doctor
  • not eating or drinking before surgery as directed by your doctor

Learn more about finding the right surgeon for breast augmentation.

How is breast augmentation surgery performed?

Surgeons usually perform breast augmentation surgery in an outpatient surgical center. The surgery may be minimally invasive or open.

Minimally invasive surgery

Your surgeon inserts special instruments and an endoscope through small incisions in your underarm or abdomen. The camera in the endoscope sends pictures of the inside of your body to a video screen. Your surgeon views the images on the screen while performing the procedure.

Minimally invasive surgery causes less injury to tissues and organs than open surgery. As a result, minimally invasive surgery generally involves Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source faster recovery and less pain.

Open surgery

This involves making a larger incision under the breast or around the areola. Open surgery allows your surgeon to directly see and access the surgical area.

Open surgery requires a larger incision and more cutting and displacement of muscle and other tissues. Therefore, open surgery generally involves a longer recovery and more pain than minimally invasive surgery.

Types of anesthesia that may be used

Depending on the procedure, surgeons perform breast augmentation surgery using general anesthesia or regional anesthesia. General anesthesia puts you into a deep sleep for the procedure. Regional anesthesia involves injecting an anesthetic around certain nerves to numb an area of the body.

What can I expect after my breast augmentation surgery?

You will stay in the recovery room after surgery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable. Most people may go home on the same day if they are recovering well. Others may need continued monitoring.

You may need to wear a surgical support bra for a period of time after your surgery. Full recovery can take up to 6 weeks Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source .

Will I feel pain?

There will be discomfort after your surgery. Your doctor will recommend pain medications or home remedies to relieve pain and help you rest.

Call your doctor if your pain worsens or persists. This may be a sign of a complication.

When should I call my doctor?

It is important to keep your follow-up appointments after breast augmentation surgery. Contact your doctor for questions and concerns between appointments. Call your doctor right away or seek immediate medical care if you experience:

  • bleeding
  • change in alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness
  • chest pain, palpitations, or an irregular heart rate
  • fever of 101°F (38°C) or higher
  • inability to urinate or have a bowel movement
  • pain that your pain medication does not relieve
  • respiratory or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • sudden change in size or shape of your breast
  • unexpected drainage, pus, discoloration, or swelling around the incision

Learn more about what to expect after breast augmentation.

What are the risks and potential complications of breast augmentation surgery?

As with all surgeries, breast augmentation involves risks and potential complications. These may develop during surgery or recovery.

General risks of surgery 

The general risks of surgery include: 

  • reaction to the anesthetic
  • bleeding
  • blood clots
  • infection 

Potential complications of breast augmentation surgery

Complications of breast augmentation surgery may include:

  • contracture or thickening Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source of the scar tissue around the implant, which can cause shape changes or pain
  • change in nipple or breast sensation
  • difficulty nursing
  • rippling, rupture, or leakage of the implant
  • scarring
  • uneven nipple positions

Breast implants do not last forever. Most people need at least one further procedure to replace or remove the implants.

Silicone implant rupture may not be noticeable from the outside. Therefore, your doctor may recommend MRI scans every 2 years Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source to monitor for ruptures.

Reducing your risk of complications

Follow your doctor’s preparation, recovery, and treatment plans to reduce the risk of complications. Take your medications as directed. Notify your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding or fever.

Learn more about healing and minimizing breast enlargement scars.

More research is necessary. However, some evidence suggests that breast implants can lead to other potentially serious health conditions. These include:

  • Breast implant illness (BII): Some people Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source with silicone breast implants report experiencing a variety of signs and symptoms collectively referred to as BII. Symptoms include fatigue, headaches, chills, and chronic pain. Clinicians do not know the exact cause of BII. Removing the implants may provide relief.
  • Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL): Researchers have linked Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source textured breast implants to cases of ALCL, a rare type of cancer. As with BII, the exact mechanism behind this condition is not clear. Prompt diagnosis and removal of the implants may improve outcomes.


Breast augmentation surgery is a major procedure performed to enhance or reconstruct breasts. Talk with your doctor about your treatment options before deciding on breast augmentation surgery.

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Medical Reviewer: Catherine Hannan, M.D.
Last Review Date: 2023 Aug 10
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