What is the typical breast augmentation experience like?

Breast augmentation surgery has many aspects. You may be wondering:

  • What type of results can I expect?
  • How do I select a good plastic surgeon?
  • How long does it take to recover?
  • When can I get back to normal activities?
  • When can I go back to work?

These are all great questions. Here’s how to get started. Also visit the FAQ section to learn the answers to common questions.

How to Choose a Plastic Surgeon

After deciding to have the surgery, your research should start with choosing the best plastic surgeon. You want someone who:

  • Is qualified
  • Has enough experience
  • Is someone you’re comfortable with

But how do you find that person? Your first step should be to ensure the surgeon is certified with the American Board of Plastic Surgery. The certification process confirms that the surgeon:

  • Completed an approved educational program
  • Met the Board’s certification requirements
  • Passed the certification exam
  • Follows the rules set out by the Board

This is a process that takes several years—not all plastic surgeons do it. Be aware that there are other certifications that may sound official. However, they’re not equal to an American Board of Plastic Surgery certification.

The next step is to ensure that the surgeon has performed a large number of breast augmentation surgeries. Also ensure he still performs them on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to ask how many of these procedures are performed each year. Asking to see “before and after” photos is another good idea. This will confirm the surgeon’s experience and skill level. It will also allow you to ensure that real-life results match your goals.

Overall, be sure that you are happy and at ease with your selection. This probably means you’ll choose a surgeon based on a mix of credentials and comfort level. Your comfort level can be influenced by:

  • The surgeon’s experience
  • Word-of-mouth from other patients
  • Seeing the results that the surgeon has achieved in the past

However, there’s no substitute for meeting with the surgeon in person.

Dear Dr. Brown, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for taking the time to meet with me and talk with me about breast augmentation. This is truly an emotional decision for me, but as soon as I walked into your office I felt comforted. Your staff treated me with such openness, kindness and respect. I have been to other doctors and kind of felt vaguely embarrassed about being there. It was also very nice to begin the consult with your nurse and somehow this helped me feel more at ease. The best part was meeting you and feeling like I somehow already met you. You should be very proud of your website, because it was a great way for me to get to know you and your practice before an actual consultation. I was looking for a doctor who is highly skilled, and would treat me with respect, and compassion, that I would be seen as a “real” person with feelings and concerns. You took the time to answer all my questions and I never felt rushed. You really surpassed all my expectations and so a few days later I decided to schedule the surgery with you. I am scheduled for surgery and I’m just a big bunch of nerves and emotions. In the days to come I will likely have more questions, and I appreciate you and your staff encouraging me to call or email whenever the need arises. I look forward to my pre-op appointment with you.
C.H.

 

Meeting with the Plastic Surgeon

When choosing the best plastic surgeon, always ensure you’re comfortable with that person. You should feel able to discuss all of your questions and concerns openly. You should feel that the surgeon addresses everything to your satisfaction. The best way to do this is to have an in-person meeting. From a medical standpoint, the surgeon also needs to meet with you to ensure you’re a good candidate for the procedure.

During the initial meeting, the plastic surgeon will conduct an exam. This may include taking photos. He will ask some questions about your medical history. This is to ensure that you’re a good candidate for the surgery. It is also to ensure that there are realistic expectations. You will need to know what the surgery will involve and what it can (and can’t) achieve. Having realistic expectations is the key to being happy with the results.

This will also be an opportunity for you to ask questions. You can explain your preferences in terms of size and the type of implant you’d like. If you’re not sure, the surgeon can explain the options. He can also explain the types of techniques used, the risks, and the recovery.

If you’re ready to proceed at this point, then the logistics can be discussed. The surgeon will explain where and when the surgery will be scheduled. He will give detailed instructions on how to prepare. You will also get consent forms, which you should review carefully. (Be sure to return these signed forms to the office.) You will get a list of medications to avoid before the surgery. You’ll also get prescriptions to fill.

Preparing for Breast Augmentation

There are a lot of things you can do to prepare. These will help the recovery process go smoothly. Here are some ideas:

  • Contact the surgeon if you have any more questions.
  • If the surgeon has asked for a mammogram in advance, be sure to get this done in time.
  • If you smoke, you should quit before the surgery. (Don’t smoke in the weeks right after either). If you do smoke, be sure to discuss
    this with the surgeon in advance. It can affect your procedure and recovery.
  • Fill the prescriptions you were given at the consultation
  • Make plans for someone to assist you during healing. This includes driving you home and staying with you for at least the first day after.
    Also make plans for someone to care for your children; you will have reduced ability to lift after the procedure.
  • Prepare meals in advance so they can simply be reheated when you’re recovering. Buy some extra supplies to ensure you have plenty to
    eat and drink on hand. Also have some crackers to eat in case of nausea.
  • If possible, assign some of your work and home tasks to others during the recovery time. Anything you can do to ensure you have time to
    relax and recover will be to your benefit.
  • Tell the surgeon about all medications you are taking. This should include vitamins and any natural remedies you use. Even over-the-counter
    medications can affect the surgery and recovery; be sure to give the surgeon a complete list. Also review the list of medications to avoid. (This
    was given to you at the consultation). These are very important and can affect your health if ignored.
  • In general, ensure you are in as good of health as possible. This includes eating healthy and exercising. However, intense exercise should
    not be done the day before the surgery.
  • For a few days prior to the procedure, do not drink any alcohol.
  • Plan for the day itself: have an outfit ready to wear that is loose and opens from the front. This will be the best option for the day of
    surgery. Also bring comfy shoes that you can put on without bending.
  • Don’t eat or drink anything after midnight before your operation. If you’ve been told to take any medications the morning of the
    procedure, do so with as little water as possible.
  • When you are showering the night before, use antimicrobial soap on the surgical areas. Afterward and including the next day, don’t use
    any types of lotions on the skin. The skin should be clean without anything added after washing. Also avoid makeup and even deodorant.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before.

Breast Augmentation Surgery: The Process

On the day of your surgery, you will see the plastic surgeon again before the procedure. This will be the chance to get answers to any final questions you may have. The surgeon will do the prep for the surgery, and make the operative markings. You’ll also meet with the nurses and anesthesia provider before going to the operating room. Once started, the surgery itself is actually quite fast. It typically takes around 25-40 minutes.

Once you awaken from surgery, your breasts will be wrapped in gauze dressings or a surgical bra. In most cases you’ll be able to go home the same day as long as someone can help to take care of you.

That day and the next will have the most pain to deal with. You can use ice to cool and numb the area. Also use the pain medication prescribed by the surgeon. It is important to understand that having some pain – even after using ice and pain meds – is normal. The actions taken to reduce the pain will help, but it’s normal that a tolerable amount will remain while you recover. You may also have an upset stomach, but this usually goes away within the first full day. You can take anti-nausea medication as well.

Potential Complications

There are a few potential problems that can occur. These include:

  • Reactions to anesthesia
  • Blood accumulation (which may need treated by the surgeon)
  • Infection
It’s uncommon, but it’s possible that infection can occur and not resolve itself. This results in the need to remove the implant until the infection is gone. The surgery must then be redone. It is also possible that you will notice a change in the sensation of the nipples. This is usually only short-term. Negative side effects cannot be predicted. They can happen even when the surgery is a success. There are also risks of complications if the recovery is not handled well. For example, being too active too soon can raise blood pressure. This can then in turn create bleeding at the surgical site. This is a serious complication that requires another surgery to correct it. If this occurs, it means removing the implant and starting over. It’s very important to follow all instructions during the recovery process. For a more complete list of risks of breast augmentation visit the downloads page to review and print out the consent form.

The breast implants will settle and the body will heal over a few weeks to a few months. How quickly each person recovers varies. There are a lot of ways you can minimize the risks and help ensure healing is not delayed. It is important to follow all patient care instructions given.

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Wait to shower until at least the morning of the second day after surgery. On the first morning after, use a sponge bath instead. In the bath, ensure to only put your lower half in the water.
  • During the first few days you’ll be a bit sore and stiff. Your breasts may be quite sensitive. You may even feel warm or itchy in the chest area.
  • It is normal for the breast area to be swollen it is usually the implants high on the chest, as they settle over a few weeks the bump will go down.
  • During the first follow-up exam the stitches and dressings will be removed. This will be within the first week. You will learn how to massage the breast implants. This is required for the next month. You may or may not need to wear a sports bra.
  • While full recovery will take at least a few weeks, general mobility will come back quickly. In fact, it’s very important to get up and move around. Be sure to take a walk around the house for at least several minutes several times in the first days. This will reduce the risk of blood clots.
  • It might be tough to lift your arms much for the first few days. This is normal.
  • For most, the recovery will be fast enough to be able to get back to work within about five days. This of course depends on the requirements of the job.
  • It’s advised to avoid lifting heavy things – including a baby – until the pain is gone or nearly gone. This is often about a week and a half after surgery. If you do have a child that wants to be held, the best advice is to have the child be placed in your lap. If able, the child can climb into your lap.
  • Other types of physical activity should be avoided for at least the first couple of weeks. Even after the first weeks, be sure to start carefully. Treat your breasts very tenderly. Begin with only light activities. The plastic surgeon will let you know when full activities can begin again. This is usually around three weeks or so. Push-ups, however, are off-limits for at least a month.
  • If you would like to be out in the sun, be sure to cover the scars. The scars will heal on their own. There is no need to use any type of minimizing cream. However, you may do so if you wish.
There is a second follow-up visit about one month after the surgery. The next visits are after three months, six months, one year, and every year thereafter. The after photos are taken at the six-month follow-up and yearly.