Background: One often under appreciated aspect of breast augmentation with implants in some patients is that what will occur is that the existing shape of the breast merely gets bigger. Breast implants do not possess magical properties and they can not cure all ills of one’s breast shape issues. This is why it is critical to carefully assess the breasts before surgery to point out and plan any concomitant techniques to address what an implant can not do or to provide a realistic understanding of what the outcome will be.
The biggest patient misconception about breast implants is that they are capable of lifting up sagging breasts. The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. A minor lifting effect can occur if the nipples are at the level of the inframammary folds. But in real breast sagging or ptosis, where the nipples are below the inframammary folds, breast implants will actually exacerbate the problem not make it better. (type 1 or 2 breast ptosis)
But many women understandably do not want the scars from a breast lift even if they may really need it for their breast augmentation. There is certainly no harm in not doing a breast lift in implant augmentation of sagging breasts as long as one has a full appreciation of what the breasts will look like afterwards. The nipples will not be centered on the breast mound, the implants will look too ‘high’ and the breast tissue may appear to be hanging off of the lower half of the implant.
Case Study: This 26 year-old female came in for breast augmentation after having had two children. She had a grade I/II breast ptosis with a low positioned breast mound and nipples that were just below the inframammary fold. She was offered a vertical breast lift with her augmentation but she did not want the scars that would result from it. She stated she only cared how she would look in a bra or swim suit.
Under general anesthesia, she had 550cc high profile silicone implants placed through incisions below her existing folds. The implants were placed in a partial submuscular dual plane location. It could be seen on the operating table that her nipples were not centered on the breast mounds after the implants were placed even though the inframammary fold was lowered as much as possible.
The relevance of this breast augmentation case is to demonstrate the consequences of not doing a breast lift with implants when one is really needed. One has to choose between a better shaped breast with scars or a scarless breast augmentation result that is far from an ideal shape. The good news is that one can always do a lift later if one eventually decides that scars are a better aesthetic trade-off than this type of augmented breast shape result.
1) The shape of the breast, particularly sagging, can adversely affect the outcome of breast augmentation surgery.
2) Contrary to popular perception, breast implants do not have any substantial lifting effect on a sagging breast.
3) The aesthetic tradeoff for augmenting a saggy breast without a lift is a very full upper pole and a low nipple position.
Dr. Barry Eppley