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When the Bandages Come Off: Settling Into Your Breast ImplantsDecember 18, 2014 by Dr. Kirby
If you have recently undergone breast augmentation, your breasts may not immediately appear as you envisioned. But do not be discouraged! It is important to understand that your new breasts are still evolving. The final outcome may not be apparent for a number of months as, even after your incisions have healed and the initial swelling is gone, your implants have not yet fully settled into place.
How Will My Implants Settle?
After your breast augmentation, your implants may appear to sit high on your chest during the early stages of healing. This is because when the implant is placed behind the muscle wall, it agitates the pectoralis muscle and causes it to put pressure on the implant. This pressure creates extra volume in the upper part of the breast tissue. The natural settling process of your implants is commonly referred to as “dropping and fluffing.”
Following your surgery, your muscle will begin to relax, allowing the implant to “drop” behind the muscle wall into a more natural position over time. As the implants “drop” into position, they will “fluff” out beneath the muscle, filling out the lower portion of the breast as the volume shifts away from the upper pole.
What Affects Implant Settling?
How and when your implants settle will be determined by your implant type and placement, the proportions of your chest wall, and your natural breast tissue.
There are two types of implant placement options: subglandular (over the muscle) and submuscular (under the muscle). Most implants today are placed submuscularly, underneath the chest wall pectoralis muscle. With this placement, your implants will adjust over a period of time and your final results may not be apparent for four to six weeks.
Subglandular breast augmentation places the implant under your natural breast tissue and over your pectoralis major muscle. If you and your plastic surgeon determine that subglandular placement is the best option for you, your implants will have a shorter settling period than with submuscular placement.
The implant placement that will work best for you depends upon your unique anatomy, personal preference, and the type of implant chosen.
Implant Shape & Material
The material, shape, and texture of your chosen implant will also have an impact on how the implants behave while you heal. Silicone and saline implants are available in two varieties: smooth, round implants and textured teardrop implants. Both will have some degree of a settling period.
Silicone and saline smooth, round implants rotate and turn freely within the chest pocket, whether they are placed above or below the muscle. Because the shape is round, this is allowed and expected.
Teardrop shaped implants are textured, which helps keep them in the appropriate position. If the teardrop implant flips and turns, the teardrop shape will no longer mimic natural breast shape. In order to prevent flipping of the implant, it is placed into a very precise pocket, based on measurements taken before surgery.
Dropping & Fluffing
After surgery, smooth, round silicone and saline breast implants are temporarily flattened by the tight pectoralis muscle, which causes the implants to rise into a higher position on the chest wall. The implants will stay in an elevated position until the pectoralis muscles are allowed to relax. As the muscles relax over the course of four to six weeks, the implant starts to “drop” behind the muscle wall into a more natural position. It is not uncommon for one side to relax faster than the other.
There are techniques that can be used to speed the relaxation process, such as medication and massage. It is common for runners and very active people to experience a longer settling time due to their well-developed pectoral muscles. Once the muscles relax, the implants “drop” into position and the breasts “fluff” out in shape.
Regardless of your implant choice or how “buff” you are before surgery, the final results will not show immediately.
Sometimes patients experience a period of uneasiness before their implants have moved into the correct position, only to find that they love their new breasts once they are fully healed. Be patient with your body as you heal. Before you know it, you are going to be thrilled with your new curves!