Complications and Risks of Breast Augmentation
All surgeries carry risks. Breast augmentation is no exception. Bleeding and infections are two of the possible risks involved. These can become quite serious. Patients should understand the risks of breast augmentation. They should understand what may happen if these occur. While the risk of having bleeding or infection is small, it is good to be prepared.
Bleeding after Breast Augmentation
Bleeding can occur during surgery or after breast augmentation. Some bleeding during surgery is expected, and can usually be kept under control.
Bleeding after the breast augmentation causes more problems. This may be around the breast implant or in the disrupted tissue inside the breast. It can even form a pool or pocket of blood. If this occurs, it is called a hematoma. When this happens, it is typically within a few hours to a few days after the surgery. The blood may not be visible from the outside, so it is good to know when to seek assistance. If you have swelling within the breast, this may be a symptom. This may occur in only one breast. Another symptom is pain that does not go away with the use of pain meds. Yet another symptom may be the skin color changes.
Sometimes a small amount of internal bleeding can resolve on its own. That said, the plastic surgeon will likely treat any major bleeding. This is often done by inserting a tube into the breast to allow the blood to come out.
Another type of bleeding issue can cause the breast to swell very large. It will also cause the breast to appear bruised over much of the surface. This is very rare, but sometimes happens soon after the surgery. If this happens, it will need surgery to correct the issue right away. This swelling and bruising should not be confused with the normal healing process. It is normal to have some bruises a few days after you go home. This is not the same as the problem. Normal bruises are often found near the incision site rather than spread over the entire breast. Problematic bruising often covers much of the breast and can make the breast very large.
Finally, a related problem is blood clots. These can form during healing. They may need to be surgically removed. Blood clots may not carry symptoms, but if the clot travels to a vital organ – such as the lung nearby – it could even cause death.
Infection after Breast Augmentation
Infection can occur after any type of surgery. Some types of infection result from bacteria that are present on the surface of the skin. Even though the area is cleaned very well before surgery, it is not possible to get rid of all risk. Internal bleeding can also increase the risk for infection.
Infections can present within a few days after a breast augmentation or they may smolder for weeks to months before causing any problems.
If you do get an infection in the early post operative period, there will likely be a few signs. These include fever, pain, redness, and swelling. Contact your plastic surgeon if this happens. He may give you antibiotic pills. Or he may ask you to come in for antibiotic fluids to be given.
In some cases, the infection can get quite severe around the breast implant. The plastic surgeon may try to clean out and drain the area. However, this may or may not work. A severe infection may even require the breast implant to be removed. If the breast implant needs removed, the breast should be allowed to heal before a new implant can be placed. This may take a few months. Placing a new breast implant too soon could mean there is a higher risk of the infection coming back. In short, this means three surgeries: one to place the implant, one to remove it and the infection, and a third to place new implant. This should underscore the severity of this risk. It must be taken seriously.
It is important to get an infection treated quickly. This is because infections can carry secondary risks. These include:
- Contracture of the scar tissue (capsular contracture).
- Re-opening of the wound.
- Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). This is a very rare illness, but it is a risk when there is infection.
There is a second type of infection that can develop over time. It is initially less severe, but causes problems later. Unlike other infections, this may show few symptoms. It will slowly cause the skin to become thin and red. This can eventually let the implant break through the thin skin. This is obviously the most serious consequence of this type of infection.
Impending breast implant extrusion*
Above is a photo from a woman via the internet, she wanted to know what this was? It is an impending implant extrusion through her skin.
Much like the treatment for the more severe infection, this will mean the implant must be removed. The implant can only be replaced a few months later after there has been time to heal. Unfortunately, this situation will have other consequences as well. There will be an extra scar from where the implant broke through the skin. There may also be a loss of some breast tissue in the removal process.
Below are two examples of smoldering types of infections. These two primary augmentation surgeries where not done by Dr. Brown. One augmentation was performed in South America and the other by a non-board-certified family practitioner. He was not even a trained surgeon.
Breast Implant Infection causing extrusion of implant*
Breast Implant Infection causing extrusion of implant*
In both of these cases, the implants had to be removed and the scar tissue and destroyed breast tissue removed. The breast tissues were then allow to heal and then a third surgery was required to reinsert new breast implants. In both cases, the women went on to heal without any other surgery required.
Reducing the Risks of Breast Augmentation in VA
There are many steps you and the plastic surgeon can take to reduce the chance of bleeding or infection. These include:
- Do not smoke. Smoking may cause wounds to take longer to heal, which increases the risks. It also restricts blood flow. Restricted blood cannot fight infection well.
- Many medications increase bleeding. Be sure to carefully review the list of medications to avoid before and after surgery. There are more than 100 drugs that can have this effect.
- The plastic surgeon may opt to use drains to aid in healing. This is a precaution in some cases. It is required in others. Either way, it can help.
- Be sure to follow the instructions on the medications you were given before the breast implant surgery. This may include an antibiotic, which can reduce the chance of infection.
- The plastic surgeon will use antibiotic fluids during the procedure.
- If you have any type of immune system disorder, understand that this may increase your risk. Be sure to weigh the increased risk before going through with the surgery. Be sure to tell your surgeon about such a condition.
George Washington University Professional Center
The Loudoun Center for Plastic Surgery
45155 Research Place, Suite 125
Ashburn, VA 20165