by Buck D
(Augmentation Mammoplasty)


Breast augmentation is a surgery to increase the size or change the shape of your breasts.

Reasons for Procedure

This procedure may be done for:

  • Cosmetic reasons—to increase breast size, make breasts symmetrical, or improve breast shape and/or contour
  • Reconstructive reasons—to increase the size of breasts that have been injured or after surgery, such as following a mastectomy for breast cancer

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Abnormal scarring
  • Painful and/or restricted arm and shoulder motion
  • Uneven appearance of breasts, either due to position or size
  • Difficulty breastfeeding
  • Implant hardens, ruptures, leaks, or deflates
  • Implant may make cancer detection with mammogram and/or self-exam more difficult
  • Decreased sensation
  • The need to have more surgeries, including having the implants removed

Smoking may increase the risk of complications.

This is an elective surgery. If you have any illnesses or you are in poor health, you should not have this procedure.

Silicone-filled breast implants are not designed to last a lifetime. They typically need to be removed within 10 years. Your risk for complications increases the longer you have the implants.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

You may be asked to provide a picture of a woman whose breasts you want yours to resemble. You also may be asked to look through an album of breast sizes and shapes to help the doctor understand the outcome you desire. Computer imaging may also be used to help determine desired results.

Your doctor may do the following:

  • Physical exam, including a careful breast exam
  • Blood and urine tests
  • ECG
  • Mammogram
  • Take photos for comparison

Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.

Leading up to your procedure:

  • The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • You may be asked to shower the morning of your procedure. You may be given special antibacterial soap to use.
  • Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
  • Arrange for help at home after returning from the hospital.


Local anesthesia may be used, but general anesthesia is usually used. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep. With local anesthesia, the selected area will be numb.

Description of the Procedure

A cut in the skin will be made either underneath your breast, alongside the area around the nipple, in your underarm, or in your belly button. An implant or prosthesis will be placed through the incision. The implant can contain silicone gel or can be filled with salt water after it is placed. It may be placed between the skin/breast tissue and the muscle, underneath the connective tissue of the muscle, or under the muscle itself. You may or may not have a drainage tube placed around the implant. The incision will be closed with stitches and bandaged. The same procedure may be repeated for the other breast.

Side View of Breast Implantation
breast implant
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

How Long Will It Take?

About 1 to 2 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. You may have some bruising and tenderness of the breasts for several weeks after surgery. Talk to your doctor about medication to help manage the pain.

Average Hospital Stay

This procedure may be done in the hospital or surgery center. It may be possible to leave the hospital or surgery center on the same day of the procedure, or you may be asked to stay overnight in the hospital. Talk to your doctor about your options.

Post-procedure Care

After the procedure:

  • You will wear a special bra or bandage to put pressure on the breasts. This will help to support your breasts and decrease the chance of bleeding.
  • Your doctor may advise you to massage or move your implants.

Be sure that you follow up with your doctor. For silicone gel implants, you will need routine MRI scan screenings to check for tears or holes in the implant. The screenings are typically done 3 years after surgery and every 2 years after that.

Call Your Doctor

It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge at the incision site
  • Discoloration in either breast
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you were given
  • Implants grow hard, or you believe that they are leaking
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
  • Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, rash, or other new symptoms

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


American Society of Plastic Surgeons 

Breast Implant Information 


Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons 

Women's Health Matters 


Breast augmentation. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Smart Beauty Guide website. Available at: Accessed September 1, 2019.

Silicone gel-filled breast implants. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at: Accessed September 1, 2019.

6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2019
  • Update Date: 10/16/2020