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Breast augmentation is a popular body contouring procedure, not only because it is successful, but also due to its instantaneous result. Unlike many types of plastic surgery where the final result takes time to see, the enlargement of the breast by an implant is immediately apparent. While temporary swelling and some bruising accompany this change, the immediacy of the size change has all patients doing close scrutiny and checking their investment.

While breast size changes dramatically at the time of surgery, it takes much longer until the breasts really feel like natural breasts. Understanding the evolution of breast augmentation recovery will reduce one’s anxiety and allow time to pass before judging the final result.

While the instantaneous size change makes for a more satisfying breast size, it does so at the expense of the elastic properties of the skin. The implant makes for stretched skin that is very tight. When combined with swelling that takes up to two days after surgery to peak, the breast will become more than just firm, they can become as hard as a rock. Some women’s breasts get harder right after surgery than others based on how firm or loose their breast tissue and skin was prior to surgery.

This breast firmness will subside as the swelling goes away and the skin’s elastic fibers relax and adjust to the new volume. It is a process that will actually take months, gradually getting better each week. That is why if you look at many early breast augmentation results that are often posted online or on various websites, the breasts look too round and even high. Just because they look this way early does not mean they will look like that six months later. The skin has yet to relax and the breast mound settle. The true feel and look of the breast can not be judged for at least three months after surgery.

Many women are concerned that as the swelling goes down so will their breast size. Largely this is not true. As the swelling subsides over a few weeks, the breast changes little in size but because less tight. Any perception of size change over time is the result of the implant settling down and not having such a high or proud position.

Regardless of the incision location used for breast implants, the skin of the breasts will develop some numbness. I am not talking here about the nipple but the skin. This numbness is primarily located over the bottom or lower pole of the breast. While some of this numbness does go away, not all women will develop completely normal feeling in this area. Fortunately the skin of the breast does not have great two-point discrimination so this is never a long-term problem, just a temporary nuisance.

While the size of the breast after augmentation occurs quickly, the feel of the breast takes much longer to develop a natural softness and normal mobility on the chest wall.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

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