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Breast implant glossary

Our breast implant glossary provides brief definitions for some of the words relevant to breast implants and used on this site. This breast implant glossary is a subset of the glossary made available by FDA.

  • Asymmetry: Uneven appearance between a woman's breasts in terms of size, shape, or breast level.
  • Breast augmentation: Includes cosmetic uses, such as to increase breast size or for ptosis (sagging or drooping of the breast) or asymmetry. Augmentation is one of three indications (clinical uses) for breast implants.
  • Breast pocket: A pocket surgically created to hold the implant.
  • Breast tissue atrophy: Thinning and shrinking of the skin.
  • Calcification/calcium deposits: Hard lumps under the skin around the implant. These can be mistaken for cancer during mammography, resulting in additional surgery, either to biopsy the lumps or to remove the implant.
  • Capsular contracture: Scar tissue or capsule that normally forms around the implant, which tightens or squeezes the implant. There are four grades of capsular contracture ranging from grade I (breast is normally soft and looks natural) to grade IV (breast is hard, painful, and looks abnormal).
  • Chest wall deformity: When the chest wall or underlying rib cage appears deformed following removal of the implants and breast tissue.
  • Delayed wound healing: Incision site fails to heal normally or takes longer to heal.
  • Extracapsular rupture: Rupture of silicone gel-filled breast implant in which the silicone gel is outside of the fibrous scar capsule that forms around the implant.
  • Extrusion: Skin breakdown with the implant appearing through the skin.
  • Galactorrhea: Inappropriate breast milk production that may occur after breast implant surgery. In some cases, the milk production stops by itself or after receiving medicine to stop milk production. In other cases, the implant(s) may need to be removed to treat this complication.
  • Granuloma: Non-cancerous lumps that can form when certain body cells surround foreign material, such as silicone. Like any lump, it should be evaluated to distinguish it from a lump that might be cancerous.
  • Hematoma: Collection of blood inside a body cavity. Swelling, pain, and bruising may result. If a hematoma occurs, it will usually be soon after surgery; however, it can also occur at any time after injury to the breast. While the body absorbs small hematomas, large ones may require the placement of surgical drains for proper healing. A small scar can result from surgical draining after breast implant surgery.
  • Iatrogenic injury/damage : Injury/damage to the tissue or implant due to surgical instruments either during the operation, during a reoperation, during implant removal, or during breast procedures while the implant is in place (e.g., cyst aspiration or hematoma drainage).
  • Infection: Can occur with any surgery when wounds are contaminated with micro-organisms such as bacteria or fungi. Most infections resulting from surgery appear within a few days to weeks after the operation. However, infection is possible at any time after surgery. Infections with an implant present are harder to treat than infections in normal body tissues. If an infection does not respond to antibiotics, the implant may have to be removed. Another implant may be placed after the infection is gone.
  • Inframammary: Within the breast fold.
  • Inflammation/irritation: Swelling of the breast area after breast implant surgery, usually with redness.
  • Intracapsular rupture: Rupture of silicone gel-filled breast implant in which the silicone gel remains contained within the fibrous capsule.
  • Investigational: Not approved, in general terms. For breast implants, this means not PMA-approved.
  • Local complications: Complications that occur in the breast or chest area.
  • Malposition/displacement: When the implant is placed incorrectly during the initial surgery or when the implant has moved/shifted from its original position. Shifting can be caused by many factors, such as gravity, trauma, poor initial placement, and capsular contracture.
  • Mastectomy: Partial or complete removal of the breast.
  • Mastopexy: Surgical procedure to raise and reshape sagging breasts. Women may also have this surgery after an implant is removed and not replaced.
  • Necrosis: Formation of dead tissue around the implant. Factors associated with increased necrosis include infection, use of steroids in the surgical breast pocket, smoking, chemotherapy/radiation, and excessive heat or cold therapy.
  • Nipple/breast sensation changes: An increase or a decrease in the sensation in the nipple or breast after breast implant surgery. This change can vary in degree and may be temporary or permanent. It may affect comfort while nursing or sexual response.
  • Palpability/ visibility: Palpability is when the implant can be felt through the skin. Visibility is when the implant can be seen through the skin, such as the valve on a saline-filled breast implant or the edge of an implant.
  • Periareolar: Around the nipple.
  • Ptosis: Sagging/drooping of the breast.
  • Reconstruction: Includes non-cosmetic uses such as post-mastectomy, a severe injury to the breast, a birth defect that affects the breast, or a medical condition causing a severe breast abnormality. Reconstruction is one of three indications (clinical uses) for breast implants.
  • Redness/bruising: Bleeding at operative site that causes discoloration and varies in degree and length of time. This is expected following breast implant surgery or breast procedures.
  • Reduction mammoplasty: Surgical procedure to reduce breast size.
  • Reoperation: Any additional surgery performed to the breast or chest area.
  • Revision: This is replacement of an existing breast implant. Revision is one of three indications (clinical uses) for breast implants.
  • Rupture/ deflation: Hole or tear in the shell of the implant that allows for loss of the filler material from the shell.
  • Scarring: Formation of tissue at the incision. All wounds heal by the formation of a scar. The degree of scarring after breast implant surgery varies from person to person, and skin type is an important factor for the development of scars. If the scarring becomes irregular and raised, it is called hypertrophic scarring. This may leave a visible, permanent scar. The keloid, a severe type of hypertrophic scar, generally does not fade or flatten with time.
  • Seroma: Collection of the watery portion of the blood around the implant or around the incision. Swelling, pain, and bruising may result. While the body absorbs small seromas, large ones will require the placement of surgical drains for proper healing. A small scar can result from surgical draining.
  • Silent rupture: Rupture of a silicone gel-filled breast implant that happens without a visible change or feel by the woman and is not evident by a physical examination by the doctor.
  • Silicone: Silicone is a man-made material that can be found in several forms such as oil, gel, or rubber (elastomer). The exact make-up of silicone will be different depending on its use.
  • Subglandular: When the implant is placed under and within the breast glands but on top of the chest muscles.
  • Submuscular: When the implant is placed underneath the chest muscles.
  • Toxic Shock Syndrome: Rare, but life-threatening bacterial infection that may occur after surgery. Symptoms include sudden fever, vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, dizziness, and sunburn-like rash. A doctor should be seen immediately for diagnosis and treatment if toxic shock syndrome is suspected.
  • Transaxillary: Under the arm.
  • Unsatisfactory style/size: Patient or doctor is not satisfied with the overall look based on the style or size of implant used.
  • Wrinkling/rippling: Wrinkling of the implant that can be felt or seen through the skin.

We hope you found this breast implant glossary helpful.

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