What are breast implants?

A breast implant is a medical prosthesis that is placed inside the breast to augment, reconstruct, or create the physical form of the breast.

[breast implant] 
Breast implants can contain silicon, saline, or another compound.

There are three main types of breast implants:

Saline implants are filled with a sterile saline solution, like saltwater. The solution is held within an elastomer silicone shell. These implants can be filled with different amounts of saline solution. This affects the feel, firmness, and shape of the breast.

If a saline implant leaks, the solution will be absorbed and expelled by the body naturally.

Silicone gel-filled implants consist of a silicone outer shell filled with a silicone gel. If a silicone-filled implant leaks, the gel will either stay in the shell or escape into the breast implant pocket. A leaking silicone-filled implant may or may not collapse.

Patients choosing this type of implant should carry out more regular checks with their doctor compared with those on saline solution implants. An MRI or ultrasound scan can check the condition of the implants.

Alternative composite implants may be filled with polypropylene string, soy oil, or some other material.

What to expect

Breast augmentation is a type of surgery, so patients need to think carefully before opting for the procedure.

Before surgery, the surgeon should help the patient choose the size of the implant needed. This may be done by putting different sized implants into a bra, to see how they feel.

A general anesthetic is normally used so that the patient is asleep during surgery. Sometimes a local anesthetic is used, and the patient is awake.


As the anesthetic wears off, the patient will be given painkillers to relieve the pain.

After general anesthesia, the patient will not be able to drive. They should arrange for a friend to take them home.

Absorbable, or dissolvable, sutures usually disappear within 6 weeks.

If the patient has sutures that do not dissolve, or if drainage tubes are placed near the breasts, a follow-up appointment will be necessary to remove them.

The medical team should provide the following information:

  • How to care for the breasts after the procedure
  • How to use the prescribed medications
  • When to attend a follow-up visit
  • When to call the doctor

The patient should seek medical help immediately if they experience:

  • any sign of infection, such as fever, or warmth and redness in the breast area
  • chest pains, unusual heartbeats, or shortness of breath

The patient should not engage in strenuous physical activities for about 6 weeks.

The doctor may advise about some post-operative exercises, such as flexing and moving the arms, to relieve pain and discomfort, and also what type of bra to wear.

Can I still breastfeed with implants

There have been concerns that breast augmentation may affect a woman’s ability to breastfeed.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) states that women who have had breast implants are three times as likely as other women to have an inadequate milk supply for nursing.

Regarding the safety of breast milk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have not updated information published in 2009 stating that there is “insufficient evidence to justify classifying silicone implants as a contraindication to breastfeeding.”

However, some infants born to and nursed by women who had implants were found to have higher levels of toxins in their blood compared with siblings born before the implants.

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