Like any surgical procedure, breast augmentation also is associated with a certain number of risks and complications. Even though the procedure has been refined, some risks are inevitable. The most common risks associated with breast augmentation include:
Infection: Infection is rare after breast augmentation but does occur in less than 2% of individuals. The infection typically occurs along the incision and presents with redness, pain, fever and redness. If the infection is mild and superficial, it will respond to antibiotics. However, if the infection is deep and associated with discharge, the breast implant must be removed. Once the breast infection has subsided, the implant can then be replaced after a period of 2-3 months. In the majority of cases, after a severe infection, the results of breast augmentation are not ideal.
Bleeding: The breast is a very vascular structure and occasionally may be associated with bleeding. The blood usually collects in the breast tissues. The bleeding will present with sudden swelling, pain, bruising and general fatigue. This generally occurs in the first 12-24 hours. In some cases, the bleeding can be severe and the surgeon may have to go back, control the bleeding and wash the wound out. Sometimes, the implant has to be removed and replaced at a later time
Capsule contracture: This is a common complication and over time at least 10-30% of women develop the condition. Capsular contraction is simply excess scar formation around the capsule of the implant. The scar becomes thick and hard. The individual will complain of intermitted pain and altered texture of the breast. Distortion of the breast tissue is sometimes visible. When the pain is excessive, removal of the scar tissue is required. It is hard to predict who will develop the capsular contracture.
Some surgeons usually insert a breast implant with a smooth texture to avoid this complication, or the implant can be placed underneath the muscles. Neither is foolproof guarantee against the development of contracture.
In the unfortunate female with recurrent capsular contractures, the implant has to be permanently removed.
Asymmetry: In some cases, the implants can migrate and cause asymmetry. The implant can migrate upwards, downwards or sideways. Minor cases of asymmetry do not require any treatment as long as the patient is not bothered by it. But in most cases, the women remain dissatisfied and repeat surgery is required to correct the problem
Autoimmune Disease: Over the past 2 decades, breast implants were blamed for causing a variety of disorders, including auto immune disorders. Media sensation created a buzz about silicone and its possible role in disease. Todate, there is not one iota of evidence that silicone causes any such disease. Individuals who tend to believe that silicone in breast implants are the cause of illness need to be on Prozac.
Cancer: Breast implants have been used for over 3 decades and there is no evidence that there is any association with any type of cancer.
Calcifications: In some rare cases, breast implants which have been in the body for many years will develop calcification of the scar tissue around the implant. In some cases, these calcific precipitations are hard to distinguish from the calcifications seen in breast cancer. Thus a thorough evaluation of a patient is needed to ensure that there is no breast cancer brewing
Rupture/deflation. In some cases, the breast may be traumatized, compressed or pinched and this may cause the implant to rupture or deflate. Leaks or rupture of implants occur in 1-5% of cases and replacement of the implant is required if the leaks is large
When there is a leak in the saline filled implants, the implant will rapidly deflate in a matter of hours. This may prove to be scary to the patient but is harmless. The ruptured implant will need to be replaced.
Silicone implants can also leak but the leak is generally well controlled and localized. Unlike the saline implants, the deflation is usually small. The individual may notice a small bulge or pain along the implant. These leaks are hard to identify. An ultrasound or MRI can rapidly reveal the status of the implant. If the leak is small, it may be okay to observe the patient. But if the leak is large, then the implant has to be removed.
Numbness: Abnormal sensations are quite common after breast surgery. The nipple area particularly can become very sensitive to touch and most women find it bothersome during love making.
Sometimes, the skin incisions remain tender for prolonged periods. In either case, watch and wait is the best treatment
Keloids: For some women, scarring or keloids formation can occur. This unexpected complication is very unsightly and difficult to treat.