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Breast Augmentation 101: Life with Breast Implants

September 22, 2021 - Rhys Branman, MD

Woman Gets Used to Day-to-Day life with breast implants

If you are thinking about breast augmentation, you’ve done your research and found that there’s a lot of information out there about your options for implant material, size, profile, and even where your incisions are placed. But you may still have questions about life with implants—like what to watch for in the weeks after surgery, when you’ll see final results, and what kind of maintenance is required long-term.

In continuation of our Breast Augmentation 101 series, board certified cosmetic surgeon Dr. Rhys Branman answers the most common questions patients ask in breast augmentation consultations about living with their breast implants.

How long does it take to see final results after breast augmentation?

You may be out and about within a few days after surgery, but final results develop gradually; this may take weeks or months for you, depending on how long it takes for your body to heal and for your implants (if placed under the muscle) to settle:

  • Swelling goes down after a few months, gradually revealing the true size and shape of your new breasts
  • Scars remain visible and firm for about 6 weeks after surgery, then continuously fade over time with proper care and are fully healed after 1 year
  • If your breast implants were placed under the muscle, it will take anywhere from about 6 to 12 months for implants to fully settle (or “drop and fluff”) into their final position on your chest due to natural muscle constriction

Because of the above factors, your breasts may not immediately have the appearance you hoped for. Be patient with your body, and look forward to the payoff. Everyone’s healing process is different, and it takes time to achieve your gorgeous new curves.

How do I know if my breast implants are healing properly?

Expect to feel tired following surgery and to experience soreness in your chest; this is a completely normal part of the healing process. Pain should be manageable with a combination of medications and ice packs. Some brief shooting pains are also normal in the first few months, as well as sensitivity around your nipples.

In the days and weeks following surgery, contact your surgeon if you experience any of these symptoms, which may indicate a complication in the healing process:

  • Persistent or worsening pain
  • New or unusual bruising
  • A change in how your implants look or feel

We schedule post-operative checkups with all of our breast augmentation patients to monitor your progress, but if you experience any unexplained symptoms after surgery, contact us. If we believe your symptoms may indicate a complication, we will set up an appointment to examine you as soon as possible.

Can you sleep on your stomach with breast implants?

For the first few months after having breast implant surgery, you cannot sleep on your stomach. You will have to sleep on your back in order to allow the implants to heal evenly and in the position your surgeon intended. This also protects your incisions from being strained during this important period of time in the healing process.

One of the most widespread misconceptions is that there is a set timeline for replacing breast implants.

If you have trouble sleeping on your back instead of your side or stomach, practice for at least a week before surgery. It can help to build a “throne” of pillows around yourself: place one pillow on each side of your body, tucked into your underarms, and use a supportive pillow or two under your head—enough to elevate it a bit above the rest of your body. Some patients like to add another pillow under their knees for extra comfort.

After healing is complete, you may return to sleeping in your preferred position; just be sure to confirm with your surgeon that enough time has passed.

What is the best mammogram for implants?

There is not a special mammogram for breast implants, though the technique used to perform your mammogram can be adjusted if you have implants. Routine mammograms are critical for all women beginning between the ages of 40 and 44, whether or not you have breast implants. Most centers where mammogram screenings occur are well-equipped to perform your mammogram if you have breast implants. Tell both your doctor and the mammography technician that you have breast implants, and they will adjust your screening accordingly.

Can a mammogram break an implant?

As long as you have communicated clearly with your provider that you have breast implants, your mammogram technique will be customized with this in mind, and should not affect the integrity of your breast implants.

How hard is it to rupture a silicone breast implant?

Silicone breast implants are difficult to rupture, and rupture is not common. Some researchers believe that most ruptures are likely due to surgical error—another reason it is critical to choose an experienced breast surgeon for your cosmetic procedure.

Rupture is more likely the longer you have your implants in place, so continue to have your implants checked via imaging technology to detect ruptures if you have silicone gel-filled breast implants.

Do breast implants sag over time?

Breast implants are very stable and their shape will not degrade or “sag” over time unless a rupture occurs. That said, your breast skin will age and gradually sag as the years pass—regardless of whether or not you have breast implants. Excessive breast sagging after breast augmentation can be avoided if your implants are an appropriate diameter, volume, and projection for your frame. Your cosmetic surgeon’s technique will also play a part in the longevity of your look, so be sure to choose a surgeon who has performed thousands of breast procedures.

To correct natural breast sagging as the decades pass, you can later have a breast lift. The procedure raises the breasts and tightens loose skin; patients also often choose to update their look in the same operation with a new implant style.

What happens if you don’t replace breast implants?

The simple answer is that, unless you have a complication associated with one or both of your implants (such as a rupture), nothing will happen if you do not replace them. One of the most widespread misconceptions is that there is a set timeline for replacing breast implants. In reality, if you are happy with the appearance and feel of your breast implants, they may not need to be replaced for many years.

How do I know if there is a problem with my breast implants?

There are a few ways you may detect a problem with your breast implants:

  • Signs of infection following surgery, i.e. fever and chills
  • Discharge at an incision site
  • Redness of the skin or unusual swelling
  • If you have saline-filled breast implants, you can detect a breast implant rupture if you see your breast visibly deflate
  • If you have silicone gel-filled breast implants, rupture can be detected by MRI or ultrasound scans, which patients with breast implants should undergo on a routine basis
  • Implants harden, tighten, and/or become distorted at any point in time after placement

The first person to contact if there’s a non-emergency problem with your breast implants is the surgeon who performed your procedure. They will be familiar with the details of your implants and surgery, and should also be prepared to evaluate and address any complications that may arise.

Read more from our Breast Augmentation 101 series:

Schedule your Little Rock Breast Augmentation consultation with Dr. Rhys Branman

Rhys Branman, MD specializes in breast augmentation in Little Rock, as well as a number of other cosmetic procedures. With many years of experience helping women get the curves they want, Dr. Branman is here to listen to your goals and help make them a reality. Call us today at 501.227.0707 or contact us online to schedule your breast augmentation consultation today.

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