Breast Augmentation: Not Nearly as Painful as You Think

Dr. Robert Schwartz
December 16, 2020

I'm sure you've heard women who have had breast augmentations describing their painful, awful recoveries in graphic detail. "I felt like a truck backed over me." "It feels like an elephant sitting on my chest."I hear these same comments when I'm consulting with new patients about breast implants."My friend had implants and she couldn't get out of bed for a week and her breasts were black and blue and purple." I wonder how many women who would want and benefit from breast augmentation have balked because of stories like these. Probably a lot. Perhaps you're one of them. It's sad. Because though I believe those stories and experiences, it doesn't have to be that way at all.

Here is how my typical patient describes her pain the day after surgery: "It feels like I worked out too hard yesterday." Ok, not a pleasant sensation. Tight, sore, uncomfortable. But nothing like an elephant, truck, or bowling ball crushing your chest. A discomfort that most of us have experienced and made it through just fine. Why do some breast augmentation patients have so much less pain than others? The pain level you experience after breast augmentation depends mostly on what your surgeon does in the operating room. If he or she handles the tissues delicately, you will recover with less pain. Unfortunately, most breast augmentations are done in a manner that is far from delicate. In most cases, the implant pocket is still made using something called, "blunt dissection." That means that the surgeon tears the pec muscles off the rib cage. That really hurts. And it bleeds. And it's not very precise.

The better way to do this is with electrocautery dissection. You can think of the electrocautery as an electric scalpel. The cautery gently divides the attachments between the muscle and the ribs. The current seals the blood vessels so bleeding is minimal. The pocket is opened up gently and precisely. Electrocautery dissection is why my patients have much less pain after surgery. It's also why most of them don't even bruise. The recovery is quicker and easier and the results are prettier and more predictable. Don't let fear of pain keep you from breast augmentation. Your recovery won't be painless but it will be a lot easier than you think.

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