Summary: As the advancements on breast augmentation continue, so does the popularity of the procedure. With more implant options, surgical techniques, 3-D previews, and a better understanding of complications and how to prevent them, the procedure is the best it has ever been.
Breast augmentation remains among the most popular cosmetic procedures performed annually in the U.S., with approximately 300,000 women getting implants in 2013. As the texture and look of breast implants continues to improve and surgical techniques become more advanced, don’t expect that popularity to wane.
More than 50 years after the first silicone gel breast implants were used in breast enhancement surgery, today’s highly refined procedure uses newer devices made with exceptional technology as researchers continue to learn more about minimizing the risk of complications.
Next-generation breast implants and advanced surgical techniques add up to making the breast augmentation procedure better than ever. Here are 5 reasons why:
- More implant options: For years it seemed the only real choice cosmetic breast augmentation patients had when it came to implants was the size. Silicone implants weren’t available, so round, smooth saline implants were essentially the only game in town. When the FDA in 2006 lifted its 14-year ban on silicone implants, it touched off a flurry of research and development that resulted in several significant advances. The most recent generation of breast implants include form-stable, anatomically shaped silicone gel breast implants commonly known as “gummy bear” implants because of their texture. Many surgeons and patients believe these may produce better, more natural outcomes for patients compared with round, smooth implants. These soft yet solid implants can’t leak or deflate, and they are available in a variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate most body types.
- Advanced surgical techniques: Today’s breast enhancement procedures are more efficient, resulting in safer procedures and shorter recovery times. Previously, surgeons created the pocket where implants are inserted using techniques that caused more extensive damage to muscle and tissue. Current techniques are more precise, resulting in reduced bleeding, less postoperative pain, and quicker recoveries. Surgeons may also use the Keller Funnel™, an FDA-approved device that allows for smaller incisions and a “no-touch” technique to insert implants.
- Fat transfer breast augmentation: Although this is limited to patients who want only a modest increase in breast size, fat transfer breast enhancement is becoming increasingly popular. The technique uses the patient’s own fat — taken from another part of the body using liposuction — and inserts it into the breast. Patients who are wary about having breast implants are attracted to the idea of this “natural” breast augmentation. Some surgeons also use fat in conjunction with breast implants to create smooth contours.
- 3-D previews: The VECTRA® 3-D imaging system offered at many plastic surgeons’ offices gives patients an enhanced preview of possible breast augmentation results. Dr. Kouros Azar, a breast augmentation specialist in Thousand Oaks, California, describes the system on his website as “an advanced tool (that helps) patients visualize possible outcomes … (It) can show you the new you with great accuracy. This advanced system can help you visualize what you could look like with various breast sizes.” In addition to including all major implant brands, shapes, and sizes from top manufacturers, the system can point out differences in volume and symmetry between a patient’s breasts.
- Better understanding of complications: Researchers are deciphering the causes of complications associated with breast augmentation surgery, especially capsular contracture. This occurs when scar tissue hardens around the implants, resulting in uncomfortable and sometimes distorted breasts. Although surgeons still aren’t sure what specifically causes this complication, researchers have made major advances in identifying a number of factors that seem to be associated with capsular contracture. They include:
- Subglandular vs. submuscular placement: Evidence shows implants that are placed under the pectoral muscles, rather than above them, are less likely to develop capsular contracture.
- Oversized implants: Breast implants that aren’t proportionate to a patient’s body should be avoided.
- Smoking: It’s been linked to many surgical complications, including capsular contracture.
- Choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon: A highly trained surgeon who operates in an accredited facility with strict infection control protocols lowers the chance of complications.