photo credit: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Plastic surgery has become increasingly common over the course of the past decade, with breast augmentation far outpacing all other types of procedures. If you’ve never had breast implants, you might be wondering where to start. The following questions can help you evaluate medical professionals and make an informed decision about your transformation.
Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or the equivalent in your country?
The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) certifies qualified medical professionals in the United States. They’ve been promoting “safe, ethical, and efficacious plastic surgery since 1937”. You can verify an American surgeon’s credentials on their website.
Medical tourism to countries such as Brazil and South Korea provide a cost-saving alternative, but exercise caution when traveling abroad for any procedure. South Korea is a developed country but standards differ from country to country or even city to city. Ask the clinic staff or concierge which government body certifies plastic surgeons and check in with them to verify. Be skeptical of online reviews as they are generally unreliable since they can be purchased and posted with ease.
How many years of plastic surgery training have you had?
Experience matters. Minimally invasive treatments such as fillers and botox don’t require anesthesia, scalpels, or downtime but breast augmentation does. All plastic surgeons must complete four years of undergraduate coursework—science or pre-med, specifically—plus four years of medical school. After medical school, they generally complete a five-year general surgery residency followed by one to two years of plastic surgery fellowships. Breast surgery can be performed by any professional trained and experienced in plastic or cosmetic surgery.
Do you have hospital privileges to perform this procedure? If so, at which hospitals?
According to Dr. Arthur W. Perry, MD, “A properly trained, board-certified plastic surgeon will usually be able to attain surgical privileges in at least one hospital in the area. If a surgeon has no hospital privileges and operates only in his office, I would be concerned…But don’t just ask whether a doctor has hospital privileges. Make sure that the doctor has privileges at a hospital in exactly the procedure that you want performed”.
Am I a good candidate for breast enhancement or breast enlargement?
Prospective patients may be a good candidate for breast augmentation if the following conditions apply:
- Physically healthy
- Not pregnant or breastfeeding
- Both breasts are fully developed
- Dissatisfaction with breast shape after pregnancy, weight loss, or aging
- Asymmetrical breasts
What will be expected of me to get the best results?
Preparing for breast augmentation might require getting a blood test, adjusting medications, smoking cessation, and the avoidance of recreational drugs, specific anti-inflammatory medication, and aspirin as these can increase bleeding and delay healing.
Where and how will you perform my breast augmentation surgery?
This type of procedure should always take place in an accredited outpatient surgical center or hospital for safety reasons. Informal settings—colloquially referred to as “back-alley clinics”—are dangerous and should be avoided. Make sure that someone is available to drive you home or stay at the hospital with you on the first night after the surgery.
photo credit: Pablo Heimplatz
How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
Every human body is different and therefore, everyone’s specific recovery time will vary. Generally, patients should rest for the first few days after surgery and can safely return to work within one to two weeks.
A high-quality surgical bra can provide extra support during healing. The physician should provide written aftercare instructions as well as a prescription for pain medication.
What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure?
Every surgical procedure carries a certain amount of risk. With breast augmentation, possible risks include bleeding, infection, poor scarring, leakage or rupture, changes in nipple or breast sensation, and fluid accumulation.
How are complications handled?
Your plastic surgeon should be easily reachable at any time to assist with possible complications. Make sure he or she provides you with a phone number that you can call after-hours.
How many additional implant-related operations can I expect over my lifetime?
Though medical technology has advanced significantly in the past decade, many women opt to receive implant revision surgery once every ten years. This is because even though the implants themselves usually have a lifetime warranty, replacement surgery isn’t covered after the ten-year mark. Your surgeon may have specific recommendations for you depending on your goals.
How will my ability to breastfeed be affected?
In most cases, breastfeeding after surgery is possible.
How can I expect my implanted breasts to look over time?
Over time, implants can change in size or shape due to a variety of factors. If you find these changes undesirable, you can ask your surgeon about implant revision surgery.
After pregnancy? After breastfeeding?
According to Dr. Leonard Grossman, “Patients with breast implants will notice enlargement of the breasts with the hormonal surge that is normally associated with pregnancy. This increase in volume will resolve once pregnancy and breastfeeding are completed. The enlargement of the breasts may be associated with stretch marks if there is rapid weight gain or enlargement of the breast with pregnancy”.
What are my options if I am dissatisfied with the cosmetic outcome of my implanted breasts?
It may take several months to one year before the final result of breast augmentation becomes visible. For this reason, it’s important to discuss your concerns with the plastic surgeon and wait for the breasts to fully heal. If you are still unhappy with the appearance of your breasts after one year, ask your surgeon if revision surgery is right for you.
How will my breasts look if I choose to have the implants removed in the future without replacement?
Your surgeon may perform a breast implant removal only or a breast implant removal with a breast lift at the same time. A breast lift can remove excess skin and tighten the breast tissue which may result in a natural and improved appearance of the breasts.
Do you have breast augmentation before-and-after photos I can look at for this procedure and what results are reasonable for me?
Cosmetic surgery is an art as well as a science. Proper clinics should have a website or a substantial portfolio of before-and-after photos featuring previous and current clients. Additionally, online patient reviews can be helpful, but they shouldn’t be the sole basis for choosing a plastic surgeon.
A reputable surgeon should answer all of your questions with ease and precision. It may be helpful to bring a pen and paper to your consultation so that you can record and review the surgeon’s answers. Asking for written aftercare instructions can also help you make an informed decision about how to proceed.