Surgery is carried out under a general anaesthetic with an overnight stay in the hospital. The risks of general anaesthetic include clots to the legs and lungs, and we take precautions to minimise the risk of this. Other risks include chest infection, and the risk of an adverse complication under general anaesthetic is 1 in 100,000.
The risks of breast augmentation surgery itself include:
Bleeding – And a possible return to theatre to deal with this (approximately 2 or 3 out of every 100 patients).
Infection – In less than 2 out of every 100 patients, the implant may become infected – this will require removal of the implant and replacement no sooner than three months afterwards.
Scars – All scars are permanent. The scars are usually placed in the breast crease and measure approximately 5cm long. They typically settle well but can be red for up to 6 months and rarely can be thickened and itchy (keloid scarring).
Under or over correction – We cannot guarantee the final size or cup size but will always do our best to get you to the size you require. We will not place implants that are too large for your breast tissue as this increases the risk of you having problems further down the line.
Asymmetry – A degree of asymmetry is typical before surgery, and if this is the case, it will be pointed out to you. After your surgery, the asymmetry may remain and, in some cases, can be more noticeable.
Capsular contracture – This is the most frequent complication of breast implants and occurs when the capsule or scar that forms around the implant becomes thicker and starts to contract. This can make the breast feel firmer than it should and can also cause tenderness and distortion of the implant. The risk of noticeable firmness can happen in 1 out of every ten patients. The chance of needing a further operation is about 1% a year. So, after ten years, about 1 in 10 women will have had revision surgery.
Changes in sensation – Some altered feeling to the breasts after breast augmentation surgery is typical. This usually relates to some numbness near the scar, and oversensitivity of the nipples. This gradually settles down but may take several months to do so. Permanent numbness to the nipples can occur, but this is rare.
Feeling or seeing the implants under the skin – In thin patients, it is common to be able to feel the edges of the implants. This is less likely in patients who start with a reasonable amount of their own tissue covering the implant. Over time some women may be able to see or feel ripples or folds in their implants, particularly when leaning forwards. This risk of this happening can be reduced by placing the implants under the muscle where appropriate and ensuring that the implants are not too large.
Implant rupture/ failure– Modern breast implants are designed to last for life. They do not need to be replaced unless there is a specific problem such as severe scapular contracture. A small number of implants may rupture (around 1 in 10). This poses no health risks. In most cases, the leak is contained within the capsule, and the patient does not notice a problem. Some patients will see a change in the size, shape or consistency of the implant. A lump might appear, and the breast may look swollen. A scan will usually be carried out, and if this suggests the implant has ruptured, removal and exchange of the implant will be recommended.
Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL) – This is a rare type of breast implant associated with breast cancer. The risk with the implants we use is currently estimated to be around 1 in 60,000. Most cases can be cured by removing the implants and the capsule around them. The latest official guidance on ALCL can be found here.
Silicone illness – Also known as Breast Implant Ilness (BII). There is currently no firm evidence that the silicone used in breast implants can cause medical harm. However, there are a number of patients who experience a number of symptoms including aches and pains and whose symptoms improve when their silicone breast implants are removed. This is an area which is still being investigated. Further information can be found from BAAPS here.
Lifelong maintenance – Please bear in mind that you will need to fund any revision surgery after one year if you experience problems with your implants.