Breast augmentation has a secure position as on of the most frequently requested cosmetic procedures, and demand for breast enlargement continues to grow. One of the most frequently asked questions I hear in my practice is 'what are the risks?'
The risks of breast augmentation are well documented but fresh information and new insights are always helpful, which makes the recent publication of "Local Complications after Cosmetic Breast Augmentation..." a timely addition. This study is special because it comes from Denmark from the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology and so would have no vested interest in promoting breast augmentation. Also, 97% of women had silicone gel breast implants while the remainder had saline breast implants.
The most common early complications of breast augmentation were hematoma (blood collecting around the implant) in 1.1% of patients and infection in 1.2% of patients. Looking at long-term complications, they found breast implant malposition (5.2%) and change in sensation (8.7%). The change in sensation is curious because in the first 30 days it occurred in less than 1% of patients but increased over time. One possible explanation is that not all of the women returned for follow up visits and perhaps those with changes in sensation or other concerns about their breast augmentation were more likely to return, which would artificially inflate the percentage frequency.
Another encouraging statistic was the frequency of severe capsular contracture (hardening/tightening of the implant capsule), which was reported to be 1.7%. Overall, the frequency of hematoma, infection, and capsular contracture was lower than in previously reported studies. Oddly they did not have any statistics regarding implant leaks or deflations.
The researchers found that less than 5% of women required re-operation for complications over a 9 year span. The general conclusion was that the overall frequency of complications was low and should be reassuring to women considering breast augmentation. Although no single study is the final word, the general consistency with prior results supports the general experience of most plastic surgeons that breast augmentation is one of the safest cosmetic procedures.