What do you do if you find yourself dissatisfied with the size, shape, or drooping of your breasts? Which breast procedure is suitable for you? Luckily, there are several surgical options available, depending on your specific objectives and desires.
Two are the most popular procedures for addressing concerns about breast size, shape, and droop: breast augmentation and breast lift. Nevertheless, it is essential to have a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in aesthetic breast surgery to determine which procedure is the appropriate one for you and aligns with your goals.
Breast augmentation: What you need to know
If you want larger breasts, the surgical procedure required to achieve this is known as breast augmentation.
Breast implants are mainly used to increase (augment) the volume of the breasts. Whether using silicone or saline, these implants are inserted into the breasts through a small incision, resulting in fuller-looking breasts and an increase in cup size. They can be implanted either beneath the chest muscle (subglandular augmentation) or partially beneath the muscle (dual-plane augmentation).
Your surgeon will discuss various options with you to decide on the most suitable size and shape of the breast implant. Additionally, the surgeon will help in selecting the appropriate location such as under the fold of the breast, in the armpit, or around the nipple.
Breast implants may be a suitable option in:
- If you feel that your breasts are too small.
- If you have noticeable asymmetry.
- If you are experiencing mild sagging.
The main benefit is that the surgeon is capable of customizing the appearance of your breasts following your requirements, all thanks to the diversity of types and sizes available. Another benefit worth mentioning is the minimal scarring associated with implants.
When thinking about breast augmentation four different areas will need to be taken into consideration, including the incision and implant placement, the implant size and shape, the type of implant, and ultimately, the associated risks.
Incision and implant placement:
There are three primary incision options commonly used for breast augmentation: inframammary (under the fold of the breast), trans-axillary (in the armpit), and periareolar (around the nipple). Each technique carries its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Nevertheless, surgeons predominantly utilize the inframammary incision technique in their practices. This particular approach has optimal access to the breast tissue, minimizes the risk of complications, and ensures the procedural scarring is well concealed.
Implant size and shape:
When deciding on the size and shape of your breast implants, multiple factors should be taken into consideration. These include the chest wall shape, body form, lifestyles, natural foundation, and personal goals. A board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in breast augmentation will provide expert guidance on which size and shape will best complement your overall appearance and fulfill your desires.
The choice between silicone and saline breast implants depends on several factors, including the desired results, patient preference, and body type. Silicone implants have a higher cost and require a larger incision, making the surgical procedure more involved. However, they tend to provide a more natural and realistic feel, making them an excellent choice for patients with minimal natural breast tissue. On the other hand, saline implants can work well for patients with ample breast tissue, as they can add volume and shape without significantly altering the feel of the breasts. Both silicone and saline implants have a lifespan of around ten to fifteen years, are approved by FDA, and have excellent safety records.
Breast lift: What you need to know
Loss of breast volume often leads to breast ptosis or drooping. It becomes more noticeable as women age, experience weight fluctuations, or go through childbirth. By volumetrically reshaping the breasts, a breast lift helps correct the sagging appearance and restores a more youthful and lifted contour, addressing this way of breast drooping. Some younger patients may experience ptosis due to insufficient skin quality to deal with the weight of the breasts. Regardless of age, ptotic breasts can be stressful as they oftentimes lead to aesthetic concerns and functional issues, such as difficulty properly fitting bras.
Breast uplift surgery, also known as a breast lift, can be a suitable solution for various concerns, including:
- Sagging or drooping breasts.
- Nipples pointing downwards.
- Breast asymmetry.
- Signs of aging and desiring a more youthful profile.
- Wanting to reduce overall breast size or areola size?
A simple test to assess the suitability for a breast lift is the pencil test. Position a pencil beneath the breast fold, if the pencil remains in place, it indicates signs of drooping. However, if your nipple falls below the pencil, it suggests significant ptosis, making you a strong candidate for a breast lift.
There are three different techniques for performing a breast lift, each with its incision approach.
The first approach is the periareolar incision, which follows the natural shape of the areola. This technique is suitable for people with larger areolas and minimal breast sagging that needs correction.
The second approach is the vertical breast reduction incision, which follows a similar path as the periareolar incision around the areola but extends downwards from the areola. This method allows a greater lift for moderate drooping.
The third approach is the inverted-T incision. Allowing the same path as the periareolar and vertical breast reduction incisions, but including an additional incision within the breast fold, this technique is used when a more extensive lift is needed.
The inverted-T incision approach is the most frequently used one, the most reliable method, and the one which most allows for the maximum breast lift and reshaping of the breasts. However, to determine the most suitable technique it is important to consider factors such as the amount of breast volume, tissue, and the extent of ptosis (breast sagging) that needs to be addressed.
Breast lift vs. Breast augmentation: Key differences
Though sometimes grouped as “boob jobs”, breast lifts and breast augmentations are distinct procedures. They each have their advantages based on your cosmetic objectives and personal preferences. Note that both breast lifts and breast augmentations are surgical interventions that require incisions, although the resulting scars typically diminish and become thin lines with time.
While breast lifts and breast augmentations are separate procedures, it is worth noting that they can be combined in a single surgery to help you achieve your desired results. A consultation with a certified plastic surgeon is crucial as they can provide you with the needed information to make the right decision regarding which procedures are most suitable for you.
The preparation process for both is generally similar. Before deciding whether a breast lift or a breast augmentation surgery is appropriate for you, it is advisable to consult with a qualified plastic surgeon.
When preparing for breast augmentation surgery, one significant aspect is discussing and choosing the type of breast implant including the style, size, and profile for your augmentation. The choice between saline or silicone implants, as well as the implant shape and texture, will be part of this discussion. Beyond the differences, preparation for both breast lift and breast augmentation surgery may involve:
- An appointment before surgery
- Undergoing a preliminary mammogram
- Undergoing necessary lab tests if required
- Refraining from taking aspirin or any other medications or supplements that could potentially increase bleeding during the procedure.
Key Takeaway: Preparation for a breast lift and a breast augmentation is generally similar.
During a breast lift, after administering anesthesia, the surgeon will proceed to make incisions to address the specific concerns of the patient. These incisions are typically made to remove the excess skin, tighten the surrounding breast tissues, and, if necessary, reposition the nipple to achieve a more youthful and contoured appearance. The exact incision pattern will depend on the extent of the lift required and the desired outcome.
Once the necessary alterations have been made, the surgeon will carefully close the incisions using sutures and may apply bandages or dressing to protect the surgical area. The specific technique used during the breast lift will determine the location and length of the incisions.
During a breast augmentation surgery, the surgeon will make incisions in strategic locations based on several factors such as the type and size of the implant, the patient’s body type, and the desired outcome. After creating the incisions, the surgeon will insert the breast implant into pockets created either behind the breast tissues or beneath the chest muscle. Once the implant has been inserted, the surgeon will then suture the incisions and bandage the area. A breast augmentation procedure typically takes one to two hours.
Key Takeaway: Breast lift surgery takes longer than a breast augmentation procedure.
Following a breast lift surgery, you’ll need to wear a support bra or an elastic bandage as instructed by the surgeon. This helps reduce swelling and provides support to the breasts during the healing process. Additionally, some surgeons may choose to insert a thin tube to drain excess fluid that may accumulate in the incision area. Be sure to follow your surgeon’s postoperative instructions regarding medication, activity levels, and drain care.
Patients often report that a breast lift procedure is less painful than they initially expected. While some discomfort is normal, typically localized to the incision sites, pain medication prescribed by the surgeon can help manage any discomfort during the initial recovery period. After a breast lift, most patients take from three to seven days off from work to allow for initial healing. Avoiding strenuous activities for about three weeks is important to promote proper healing and minimize the risk of complications. Swelling is common after a breast lift, but it does subside over time, and the final results can be expected to be seen within six to 12 weeks as the swelling resolves.
After the breast implant placement, the surgeon will close the incisions with sutures and may apply gauze dressings to protect the surgical area. To minimize swelling and provide support, you will be offered an elastic support bra to wear, as instructed by your surgeon. Pain experienced from breast augmentation can vary depending on factors such as the size and placement of the implants. The duration of a full recovery from breast augmentation typically ranges from four to six weeks, though individual experiences may vary. It is essential to follow the postoperative instructions and attend follow-up appointments for proper healing and monitoring of your progress.
Key Takeaway: The recovery time for both breast lift and breast augmentation is similar. The level of postoperative pain, however, may be slightly higher for breast augmentation surgery.
Which is better? Breast augmentation? Breast lift? Both?
Every procedure has its benefits and drawbacks. You must recognize that while breast augmentation addresses the size and shape of the breast, it does not address sagging breasts. Au contraire, a breast lift does target the breast position but it does not increase in bust size.
Frequently, a breast lift is performed in conjunction with breast augmentation to achieve a more youthful breast position while also adding volume through the use of an implant. When a breast augmentation is combined with a lift, referred to as an augmentation/pexy, it results in both upper breast fullness and repositioning of sagging breasts and nipples.
Opting to modify your breasts is a personal decision. To ensure your safety and peace of mind, it is advisable to always consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in breast surgery. This way, you can rest assured that you will receive optimum results. When contemplating plastic surgery, you need an experienced board-certified plastic surgeon who is an expert in the field and can provide evidence of outstanding outcomes.