Breast Augmentation Complications
There are risks with all surgeries, and breast augmentation is no exception.
For starters, there are risks associated with anesthesia. The two main types of anesthesia used for breast augmentation are general anesthesia (you are asleep) or a combination of local anesthesia and conscious sedation (your level of consciousness is altered to varying degrees).
General anesthesia carries rare but potentially fatal risks such as aspiration (when an object or liquid is inhaled into the respiratory tract), allergic reaction, nausea, vomiting and increased blood pressure and heart rate. One in 250,000 people die each year from complications of general anesthesia. The risks are greater among people with serious medical conditions.
Local anesthesia is considered extremely safe. The risks of conscious sedation include headache, a hangover-like feeling, nausea, vomiting and/or unpleasant memories of your surgery. For more information on the risks of anesthesia and how to protect yourself, visit our comprehensive article on the subject.
General Surgery Risks
Even in the hands of the best breast surgeon, there can be complications with your surgery. They include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Hematoma (break in a blood vessel)
- Seroma (collection of fluid underneath the skin)
- Blood clots (often in the leg, known as deep vein thrombosis [DVT])
- Tissue death (necrosis)
- Implant extrusion or rejection (the body rejects the implant and pushes it out)
- Loss of sensation in the nipples or breast area.
- Capsular contracture
- Galactorrhea (production of breast milk)
- Breast implant deflation
- Implant rupture
- Granulomas (small areas of inflammation in tissue that can occur if a silicone gel implant ruptures and leaks)
Smoking increases many of the risks of surgery, including the risk of infection, poor wound healing and raised, red scars. Smokers who undergo surgery are also more likely to experience heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, lengthy hospital stays or death. For these reasons, your surgeon will likely require you to quit smoking prior to surgery. For more information on the risks of smoking and how to kick the habit, see our page on smoking and surgery.
Breast implants may be linked to a rare cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). The Food and Drug Administration is currently developing a registry to better understand this connection. For more information, visit our comprehensive article on breast implants and ALCL.
Some breast augmentation complications may be cosmetic in nature. These may include:
- Rippling, wrinkling and contour irregularities
- Synmastia (the two breast implants end up touching each other in the middle of the chest)
- Bottoming Out. This occurs when the breast implant has lost its tissue support and has slipped below the inframammary crease (the fold line just under the breasts where they meet the chest).
- Mondor's Cord. This is named for a French surgeon, Henri Mondor. It refers to the presence of a bulging vein under your breast lobe, on your abdomen and breast. It is caused by thrombophlebitis (inflammation of a vein).
- Dissatisfaction with your results
Some complications such as symmastia, capsular contracture, implant deflation or dissatisfaction may require revision breast augmentation. Risks for breast lift surgery are similar to those for breast augmentation.
Breast reconstruction surgery also confers risks similar to those of breast augmentation. When the procedure involves the use of skin flaps taken from other parts of the body, potential breast reconstruction complications include infection and loss of sensation at the donor site. In addition, recovering from breast reconstruction surgery takes longer if tissue flaps are used rather than breast implants.
The best way to protect yourself from complications is to choose a board-certified plastic surgeon to perform your breast augmentation surgery. Board certification assures you that your surgeon has had extensive training, passed rigorous examinations, and is up to date on new technology and techniques.