step-by-step guide to your breast augmentation

Aug 09, 2012

What to expect when you are augmenting your breasts

You have been thinking about it (or them) for as long as you can remember.

Breast augmentation with implants has probably been on your mind since middle school when all of your friends began sprouting breasts, and yours seemed to stop short at the bud stage. Even those bust-enhancing exercises didn’t seem to make a difference. Now that you are older and wiser, you feel ready for breast augmentation with implants. The first step is to schedule a consultation with one or more board-certified plastic surgeons.

Tip: It’s a good idea to be aware of whether or not the practice charges for consultations before this visit.

Your Breast Implant Surgery Consultation: What to Expect

The consultation is your chance to meet the doctor(s), check out their practices and ask any questions that you may have about the procedure. He or she should take a through medical history and perform a physical exam focusing on your breasts.  Your surgeon will also ask questions about your cosmetic goals and what you hope to achieve with this surgery. The answers to these questions should help your surgeon ascertain whether your expectations are realistic and can be met with breast augmentation surgery. You can ask to see before-and-after photos and/or talk to former patients.  Don’t feel pressure to schedule your surgery on the day of your consultation.

Tip:  If cost is a concern, discuss it with your surgeon’s staff. Financing plans may be available.

Before Your Breast Implant Surgery: What to Expect

Once you are ready to schedule your surgery, you will get extensive preoperative instructions. These will include details about what you can and can’t eat, drink or do before the procedure. Certain medications such as aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can’t be taken before surgery as they may increase bleeding risks. The same is true for some herbal or “natural” remedies. Make sure you let your surgeon know about anything and everything you take on a regular basis. If you smoke, you will also be strongly advised to stop before your breast augmentation. Smoking increases your risk of poor wound healing and necrosis (skin and tissue death).  

You may need to undergo a mammogram before your surgery so that there is a baseline comparison for future breast x-rays. Other blood work and medical tests may also be indicated.

As the “big” day approaches, you may have trouble sleeping due to excitement and nerves. This is normal. Channel your nervous energy and get things ready for your recovery. This includes filling any prescription medications in advance, stocking up on ice packs, easy meals, and fun stuff like books, magazines and movies.

Tip: Make sure you wash your hair on the night before your procedure as you may not be able to do so again for a few days afterward.  

The Day of Your Breast Implant Surgery: What to Expect

The day of your surgery will seem surreal. Soon after checking in at the hospital or center, an anesthesiologist will administer your anesthesia. You will have decided on the type of anesthesia in advance. The choice includes local anesthesia and intravenous sedation (so you are awake, but not aware) or general anesthesia (you are out cold).

You shouldn’t remember or feel the surgery.  Your surgeon will first create the agreed-upon incision.  Next, he or she will insert a saline- or silicone-filled breast implant into the newly-crafted pocket. Soon after, the incisions are closed and you are taken to a recovery area for close monitoring. In general, this surgery will take between one and three hours to complete.

Tip: Make sure to arrange for a friend or family member to drive you home after your surgery.

Your Breast Implant Surgery Recovery: What to Expect

When you wake, you may feel nauseated from the anesthesia. It’s also common to feel cold. Many women can go home the day of their surgery, but others may spend the night.

Remember breast augmentation recovery is a process. It starts immediately after your surgery and can continue for months.  With each day, you should start to feel a little bit better. There may be emotional ups and downs during your recovery. This is normal, and a result of sleep loss and after-effects of some of the medications. Journaling can help keep pace with your emotions.

 Expect to be swollen and bruised.  Icing your sore breasts for the first day or two after surgery can help reduce swelling and alleviate some of the discomfort. Your surgeon can also prescribe painkillers.  Drinking water and avoiding salt can help relieve some swelling. Still, swelling can last for months.

If you had drains placed in your incisions to remove excess fluid, your surgeon should give you very specific advice on how to care for them. These drains will likely be removed during your first follow-up visit. You must also take care to keep your incisions clean and dry.

Make sure to take all your medication as prescribed for as long as prescribed. This includes antibiotics which help stave off infection.

Your surgeon should give you a list of potential complications that can occur during your recovery. Some are more serious than others. Call your surgeon immediately if you develop:

  • Sudden, severe swelling
  • Blackening of the skin
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Temperature greater than 105° F.

Ask your surgeon what else you should look out for, and importantly, how you can prevent any serious complications.

Tip:  Walking around as soon as you are able can help prevent blood clots.  

Don’t expect your breasts to look picture perfect right away. They will be hard and sit high on your chest at first. They may also appear red, sunburned and shiny, and your nipples may point downward. You may also experience a loss of sensation in your breast or perhaps heightened sensation in your nipples.  Don’t worry. This is what to expect when you are augmenting your breasts.