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Safety of Breast SurgeryBreast augmentation surgery is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the world. It has a long and successful track record of providing women with breasts that match perfectly with their body. One of the most common ways of enhancing the breast size is through the use of implants which are either made up of saline or silicone.

In the recent years, however, the safety of breast implants, and silicone ones in particular, has been widely debated. When people are looking to undergo a breast implant surgery, it is critical that they know the potential problems they may encounter during and after the procedure. Some of these problems may include:

  • Capsular contracture is a big issue for patients who get breast implants. After the implants are placed, the body’s normal reaction is to create a fibrous tissue around the implant. Over time, this scar tissue will start to shrink and, in some patients, this scar tissue can become quite tight and squeeze the implant causing patients to feel pain and discomfort.
  • Implant ruptures are another common problem and this is particularly true of silicone implants. Implant ruptures happen when the implant is damaged during the surgery or as its casing gets weaker over time. The first implants made had very thin casing so ruptures happened frequently. Modern implants have thicker casing so ruptures aren’t much of a problem anymore. If a rupture does happen, the best thing to do is have it removed and replaced with a new one. While it is not always possible to tell if an implant has ruptured or not, there can be signs such as redness, swelling, pain and discomfort. One serious side effect of silicone implant rupture is the formation of silicone lumps in the breast. Siliconomas can cause significant pain and may need to be removed. If left untreated, the lumps can spread to the muscles of the breast and into the armpit and nerves of the arm. Saline implants may rupture and they do so much faster than silicone implants. Once they rupture, the implants deflate and cause the breasts to change in size and shape. The leakage should not cause any health issues for the patient since the saline solution in breast implants is sterile and the body can easily absorb it without any problems. Surgery is still necessary to get rid of the silicone casing.
  • Infections and bleeding following a breast augmentation surgery is relatively rare. However, this complication becomes more likely if the augmentation is done following a mastectomy. Most infections can go away by using antibiotics but, if it becomes severe, the implant has to be removed to prevent more serious complications from developing. The implant may be reinserted only after the infection is gone and this is usually after a couple of weeks or months. Both saline and silicone implants carry a risk of infection and bleeding. Saline implants have a greater risk of infection because bacteria can grow in the saline solution and be released into the body once the implant breaks or ruptures.
  • Both types of breast implants are associated with a very uncommon type of cancer known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma or ALCL. It is not clear if this condition is directly caused by the implants themselves. With regards to breast cancer, there is no sufficient evidence that breast implants increase the risk of a patient developing breast cancer. If a patient does develop breast cancer, her chances for full recovery will not be affected by the breast implants. However, the implants will have to be removed during the course of cancer treatment.

Undergoing breast augmentation, or any type of surgery, is a major life decision. Great results are not guaranteed and the cost might not be covered by insurance. Before the operation, patients need to determine why they want the surgery. Getting breast implants because of body image issues or depression and anxiety does not necessarily mean that a person will feel better about their life. Breast implants, or any other methods of breast augmentation, are not a quick fix. Patients should take into consideration the potential risks and complications of the procedure and weigh them against the costs and benefits.

April 28, 2016
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