Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Healthy skin & hair centre

Select a topic to explore more.
Select An Article

Breast implants

Plastic surgery has made it possible to transform just about every part of the body, from the nose to the thighs and almost everything in between. For women who would like larger breasts for cosmetic reasons, there is breast augmentation surgery, which places implants under the breast tissue or chest muscle to increase the breast size. Women who have small breasts, or whose breasts have lost their fullness after pregnancy or weight loss, may be candidates for breast implants.

Although breast implants can be used for reconstructive purposes (for example, after the breasts are removed because of cancer) this article covers cosmetic breast augmentation only. It discusses the types of breast implants available, the procedures used, and the complications that can occur.

Before considering breast implants, seek medical advice about whether they are right for you, how long they will last and any safety concerns about breast implants.

Types of breast implants

There are two types of breast implants: saline and silicone.

Saline-filled implants are silicone shells filled with sterile salt water (saline). Silicone-filled implants are silicone shells filled with a plastic gel (silicone). Many women say that silicone implants feel more like real breasts than saline.

The cost of breast implants varies depending on the type and treatment centre.

The NHS rarely funds cosmetic breast implant surgery, so most women pay to have the surgery privately.

To qualify for breast implants on the NHS, you would have to show the appearance of your breasts causes you significant psychological distress caused by:

  • Severe underdevelopment of breast tissue
  • Severe asymmetry (significantly uneven breasts)
  • A congenital abnormality

Eligibility may also depend on local guidelines. Your GP will be able to advise you about availability in your area.

How the breast implant procedure is performed

Not everyone is eligible for breast implant surgery. A surgeon will review your medical history and overall health.

You will not be able to have breast implant surgery if you:

  • Are under 18
  • Are pregnant
  • Are breast-feeding
  • Have malignant ( cancerous) or pre-malignant breast cancer that has not been fully treated
  • Have a medical condition that could increase your risk from surgery or the general anaesthetic, or increase your risk of infection
  • Have an active infection anywhere in your body.

You may be asked to stop taking certain medications a few days or weeks before your operation. Breast implant surgery is sometimes carried out as day surgery, enabling you to go home the same day. But in some cases you may need an overnight hospital stay.

You will probably be given general anaesthesia, in which you are asleep and pain free. The incision may be made under the breast, under the arm, or around the nipple, depending on your body, the type of implant, and how much enlargement is being done.

The breast implant is inserted into a pocket either above or below the chest muscle. Once the implants are in place, the incisions will be closed using sutures ( stitches), and will usually be covered with a dressing.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Healthy skin &
hair newsletter

Skin care tips and treatment options.
Sign Up

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

woman coughing
Home remedies for coughing
smiling baby
Causes and remedies
man holding sore neck
16 tips when you have a lot of weight to lose
mother and child
Caring for a baby with cows' milk allergy
woman holding mouth
What causes sensitive teeth?
man holding sore neck
8 signs you're headed for menopause
man holding sore neck
The best time to do everything
bain illustration
Best foods for your brain
woman doing situps
7 most effective exercises
avacado on whole wheat crackers
Plenty to choose from
egg in cup
Surprising things that can harm your liver