In the hands of a skilled surgeon, complications are infrequent and usually minor. However, as with any operation, there are risks associated with surgery and specific complications associated with this procedure.
The greatest risk with this sort of operation is that the breast will feel harder than normal, a complication known as capsular contracture. This may develop in the first year or two after surgery. Regardless of the implant selected, the body will naturally form scar tissue around the implant. If this scar tissue shrinks or contracts, it can cause anything from a mild firmness to extreme hardening that can cause a visible deformity of the breast. This may develop in the first year or two after surgery and occurs in around one in 10 women. However, the risk is much less likely with the textured implants in use now rather than the smooth implants which used to be inserted.
Approximately 1 in 7 women complain about changes in nipple sensation with either a reduction or complete loss of sensation. This may take up to six months to settle and very occasionally, can be permanent. An unpleasant oversensitivity can also occur, particularly when clothing rubs against the nipples, and this takes a similar period of time to settle.
Scars result from any incision but breast augmentation incisions are usually well hidden in the breast crease or the armpit. However, there is a small risk that the scars may become red, raised and lumpy and this complication can take a long time to improve.
Implants can rotate or shift position after surgery and they can also weaken and rupture. Implant rippling or wrinkling can also occur.
Other risks include bleeding, delayed healing, wound infection, chest infection and blood clots in the leg known as a deep vein thrombosis, although all these risks are uncommon.
There is the possibility that there may be a link between breast implants and an extremely rare type of immune system cell cancer called Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). Due to the rarity of a diagnosis of ALCL (believed to be in the order of 1 person out of 50,000-300,000 people) a worldwide collaboration is required to provide robust data to investigate the link.
BIA-ALCL presents with late onset (at least one year after implantation), rapid swelling of one breast. It should be noted that ALCL is extremely rare and treatable by surgery and other therapies recommended by the cancer specialist team.