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Procedure Guide Glossary of Terms

Breast Augmentation Glossary

Looking for a definition? Try this easy-to-use glossary of terms related to breast augmentation, breast implants and related breast health issues.

A | B | C | D | E | G | H | I | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | W

A

  • acromiothoracic artery — An artery which supplies blood to the breasts.
  • American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) — One of 24 specialty boards that comprise the American Board of Medical Specialties. Physicians must complete extensive training and pass rigorous examinations to be board-certified by the ABPS.
  • American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) — The leading professional organization of plastic surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery who specialize in cosmetic plastic surgery.
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) — The world's largest plastic surgery specialty organization. The membership of the ASPS includes 97% of plastic surgeons in the United States who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
  • anatomical — Refers to shaped or contoured breast implants that are designed to give the breasts a natural shape.
  • anesthesia — Loss of feeling or awareness that is induced and monitored during a surgical procedure. General anesthesia, which produces an unconscious state, is commonly used during breast augmentation surgery.
  • areola — The area of darker tissue that surrounds the nipple and which contain the Montgomery's glands.
  • armpit incision — An incision used in breast augmentation surgery made in the armpit. Also called the transaxillary incision.
  • asymmetry — Refers to a woman's breasts that differ in size, shape and/or position. Most women actually have some degree of asymmetry, but significant asymmetry after breast augmentation may require an adjustment procedure.
  • augmentation mammaplasty — A procedure to reshape and enlarge the breast for cosmetic reasons or to reconstruct the breast.

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B

  • band size — A measurement is taken around the body, underneath the breasts to determine the band length of a bra. Expressed as a number that precedes the cup size to indicate the overall bra size, e.g., "42C."
  • bilateral — Pertains to corresponding parts on both sides of the body, such as referring to both the left and right breasts.
  • biopsy — Removal of sample tissue to test for cancer, including breast cancer.
  • board-certified — To be certified by one of the 24 specialty boards that comprise the American Board of Medical Specialties. Physicians must complete extensive training and pass rigorous examinations to be board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Plastic surgeons in Canada are certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC).
  • board-eligible — To be eligible to be certified by one of the 24 specialty boards that comprise the American Board of Medical Specialties.
  • bottoming out — Occurs when the breast implant is positioned too low on the chest and the nipple rides too high, resulting in an unnatural look.
  • breastfeeding — The practice of a woman feeding her infant with milk produced naturally by her breasts. The majority of women who receive breast implants are able to successfully breastfeed, though women who have a nipple incision are at greater risk for problems.
  • breast augmentation — A surgical procedure designed to enhance or restore the size and shape of the breasts.
  • breast examinations — Mammograms, breast physical examinations and breast self-examinations are the screening tests used to detect breast cancer and save many lives each year.
  • breast implants — A silicone rubber shell filled with saline solution or silicone gel used in cosmetic or reconstructive breast surgery.
  • breast lift — A procedure to lift and reshape sagging breasts. A breast lift can be performed in conjunction with a breast augmentation or breast reduction. Also known as a mastopexy.
  • breast pocket — The "pocket" created by the plastic surgeon in which to place the breast implant during breast augmentation surgery.
  • breast reconstruction — Many different techniques are used to reconstruct a breast following a mastectomy or to correct breast deformities. Breast reconstruction techniques use either breast implants or a woman's own tissues to create a new, natural looking breast .
  • breast reduction — A procedure to reduce the size of large breasts. Breast reduction is performed for physical relief as well as for cosmetic reasons.

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C

  • calcium deposits — Occurs when a thin layer of calcium develops within the scar capsule surrounding the implant, usually several years or more following surgery. The added density of the scar may reduce the detectability of lesions close to the scar on mammograms.
  • Canadian Society for Aesthetic Cosmetic Plastic Surgery (CSAPS) — Professional organization dedicated to improved cosmetic surgery outcomes through education, research and the maintenance of high surgical standards of clinical practice.
  • Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons (CSPS) — Professional organization for plastic surgeons who have passed the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) examinations and are certified to practice.
  • capsular contracture — The most common complication of breast augmentation surgery, capsular contracture occurs when the scar capsule surrounding the breast implant shrinks and squeezes the implant. Surgical correction may be required in cases of very firm contraction.
  • capsule — A scar capsule of dense fibrous connective tissue forms around any foreign object introduced into the body, in this case surrounding the breast implants.
  • cleavage — The space between a women's breasts, especially as revealed by clothing with a low neckline.
  • colostrum — Substance produced by the breasts to nourish newborn infants for 3 or 4 days until milk production begins. Also provides infants with antibodies to help their immune system.
  • "complete unders" — Refers to the submuscular implant placement, which involves placing the breast implant directly behind the pectoralis muscle.
  • consultationMeeting you will have with a plastic surgeon prior to breast augmentation surgery.
  • contralateral — Pertains to corresponding parts on the opposite sides of the body, such as referring to the left or right breast.
  • Cooper's ligaments — Ligaments which attach the breasts to the underlying pectoral muscles.
  • cosmetic surgery — Surgery to improve one's appearance for aesthetic reasons, rather than for reasons of medical necessity.
  • crease incision — An incision used in breast augmentation surgery made just above the crease where the breast meets the chest. Also called the inframammary fold incision.
  • cup size — A measurement taken around the body, at the fullest point of the breasts to determine the cup size of a bra. Expressed as a letter that follows the band size to indicate the overall bra size, e.g., "42C."

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D

  • deflation/rupture — Occurs when a breast implant leaks and is evidenced by a loss of size or change in shape of the affected breast. Saline leakage is not a health risk, though surgery to replace or remove the implant may be required.
  • delayed wound healing — Occurs when an incision separates or heals unusually slow.
  • DIEP flap breast reconstruction — A breast reconstruction method where skin from the lower abdomen is used to form a new, natural looking breast.
  • displacement — Occurs when breast implants move out of position. Larger movements, though uncommon, may require corrective surgery.
  • dissection — To part tissue, such as during a medical procedure.

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E

  • estrogen — One of three major hormones, along with progesterone and prolactin, which affect the breasts and cause them to swell during the menstrual cycle.
  • expander implant — A temporary breast implant used during breast augmentation or breast reconstruction to stretch the breast tissue prior to placement of a permanent implant.
  • extrusion — A rare complication of breast augmentation surgery that occurs when a breast implant erodes through the skin or scar.

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G

  • galactorrhea — An excessive flow of milk from the breasts during lactation, or a spontaneous flow of milk not associated with lactation.
  • general anesthesia — Form of anesthesia which produces an unconscious state that is induced and monitored during a surgical procedure. General anesthesia is commonly used during breast augmentation surgery.
  • glands — Each breast has 15 to 25 lobes, or milk glands, which contain a number of smaller lobules, which end in tiny bulbs that produce milk during lactation.

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H

  • hematoma — Occurs when a small collection of blood pools under the skin, forming a mass. Larger hematomas may require aspiration, drainage or even surgical removal.
  • hypoplasia — Incomplete or interrupted development of an organ or body part. Hypoplastic breasts are usually narrow, lacking in fullness, widely spaced and don't expand during pregnancy.

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I

  • infection — A complication of breast augmentation surgery that is uncommon but possible as with any surgery. Most infections experienced after breast augmentation surgery are mild and easily treated.
  • informed consent — Informed consent documents communicate information about a surgical treatment and disclose risks and alternative treatments.
  • inframammary fold incision — An incision used in breast augmentation surgery made just above the crease where the breast meets the chest. Also called the crease incision.
  • intercostal arteries — Arteries that supply blood to the breasts.
  • internal mammary artery — Extends down either side of the sternum and gives off branches which supply blood to the breast. One of the two main sources of blood to the breasts (the other is the lateral thoracic artery.)
  • in-patient surgery — A surgical procedure that requires the patient to stay in the hospital overnight.

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L

  • lactation — The production and secretion of milk from the breasts.
  • lactiferous ducts — The network of ducts that carry milk from the milk glands to the nipple.
  • lactiferous sinuses — A widening of the lactiferous ducts at the base of the nipple where milk accumulates.
  • lateral thoracic artery — A branch of the axillary artery which extends from the armpit to supply blood to the breasts. One of the two main sources of blood to the breasts (the other is the internal mammary artery.)
  • latissimus dorsi flap breast reconstruction — A breast reconstruction method where the latissimus dorsi, a muscle in the back, is brought around the body to the site of the breast.
  • lobes — The glandular part of breast where milk is produced. Each breast has 15 to 25 lobes, which contain a number of smaller lobules, which end in tiny bulbs that produce milk during lactation.
  • lobules — Section of a lobe that ends in tiny bulbs that produce milk during lactation.
  • local anesthesia — Form of anesthesia which involves an injection to numb the area where an incision will be made during a surgical procedure.
  • lumpectomy — The most common form of breast cancer surgery, which involves removal of a cancerous tumor from the breast, along with a small amount of surrounding breast tissue.

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M

  • mammaplasty — A plastic surgery procedure performed on the breast, including breast augmentation, breast lift, breast reduction and breast reconstruction.
  • mammary — Pertaining to the breast.
  • mammogram/mammography — A low-dose x-ray examination of the breast , mammograms are the best method for detecting early breast cancer and the only exam currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • mastectomy — The surgical removal of a breast, usually due to breast cancer. Many women who have had a mastectomy have benefited from breast reconstruction as a means to restore their natural appearance.
  • mastopexy — A procedure to lift and reshape sagging breasts. A mastopexy, or breast lift, can be performed in conjunction with a breast augmentation or breast reduction.
  • micromastia — Abnormal smallness of the breasts.
  • milk ducts — The network of ducts, also called the lactiferous ducts, that carry milk from the milk glands to the nipple.
  • milk glands — The glandular part of breast where milk is produced. Each breast has 15 to 25 lobes, which contain a number of smaller lobules, which end in tiny bulbs that produce milk during lactation.
  • Mondor's Cord — Occurs when one or more blood vessels become inflamed and are visible as a "cord" that usually runs vertically. Discomfort is usually minor and healing takes place on its own.

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N

  • necrosis — An uncommon complication of breast augmentation surgery that occurs when dead tissue forms around the implant, and can require surgical correction and/or implant removal.
  • nipple — The small projection near the center of the breasts, surrounded by the areola, where the milk ducts open and from which milk is drawn.
  • nipple incision — An incision used in breast augmentation surgery made at the perimeter of the areola. Also called the peri-areolar incision.

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O

  • out-patient surgery — A surgical procedure that does not require the patient to stay in the hospital overnight.
  • "overs" — Refers to the subglandular implant placement, which involves placing the breast implant directly behind the mammary gland and in front of the pectoralis muscle.

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P

  • palpability — Capability of being felt by touch, such as a breast implant.
  • "partial unders" — Refers to the subpectoral implant placement, which involves placing the upper two-thirds of the breast implant behind the pectoralis muscle.
  • pectoralis major — The large chest muscle, commonly referred to as "pecs," that supports the breasts and facilitates movements of the arms.
  • pectoralis minor — Thin muscle of the upper chest that lies beneath the pectoralis major and connects the shoulder blade to the front of the ribs.
  • peri-areolar incision — An incision used in breast augmentation surgery made at the perimeter of the areola. Also called the nipple incision.
  • plastic surgery — Surgery intended to repair, restore or improve the body following trauma, injury or illness.
  • pocket — The "breast pocket" created by the plastic surgeon in which to place the breast implant during breast augmentation surgery.
  • progesterone — One of three major hormones, along with estrogen and prolactin, which affect the breasts and cause them to swell during the menstrual cycle.
  • prolactin — One of three major hormones, along with estrogen and progesterone, which affect the breasts and cause them to swell during the menstrual cycle.
  • prosthesis — An artificial device used to replace or represent a body part.
  • ptosis — Sagging or drooping of a body part, such as the breasts.

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R

  • reconstruction — Many different techniques are used to reconstruct a breast following a mastectomy or to correct breast deformities. Breast reconstruction techniques use either breast implants or a woman's own tissues to create a new, natural looking breast.
  • reduction — A procedure to reduce the size of large breasts. Breast reduction is performed for physical relief as well as for cosmetic reasons.
  • regional anesthesia — Form of anesthesia where a "region" of the body is anesthetized without producing an unconscious state. A nerve block or an epidural administered during childbirth are examples.
  • rippling — Indentions on the breast that are often caused by movement of the breast implant.
  • Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) — National organization that is responsible for setting and maintaining standards for postgraduate medical education, certifying specialist physicians and surgeons, and promoting continuing education.
  • rupture/deflation — Occurs when a breast implant leaks and is evidenced by a loss of size or change in shape of the affected breast. Saline leakage is not a health risk, though surgery to replace or remove the implant may be required.

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S

  • saline — A solution made up of water and a small amount of salt. Breast implants are filled with saline solution after being inserted behind the breasts.
  • scar — A mark left by healing tissue as part of the body's natural healing process. Scars left by breast augmentation surgery are usually small and well-hidden in the crease beneath the breast, around the nipple or in the armpit.
  • scar capsule — A scar capsule of dense fibrous connective tissue forms around any foreign object introduced into the body, in this case surrounding the breast implants.
  • sedation — Form of anesthesia, usually administered via an injection, that reduces awareness but does not cause the patient to be unconscious.
  • seroma — Occurs when fluid accumulates around the implant or incision. Larger seromas may require aspiration, drainage or even surgical removal.
  • serratus muscle — Muscle located in the chest beneath the pectoralis major and minor muscles and the rib cage.
  • silicone elastomer — A type of silicone with elastic properties that is used to make the outer shell of breast implants, among other uses.
  • silicone gel — A cohesive, gelatin-like substance that holds together uniformly while still retaining the natural give of breast tissue.
  • sizer — A temporary, disposable breast implant used by the surgeon to test implant size, placement and fill level prior to replacement with the permanent implant.
  • subglandular placement — Breast implants placed behind the mammary gland and in front of the pectoralis muscle. Subglandular placement is sometimes referred to as "overs."
  • submuscular placement — Breast implants placed directly behind the pectoralis muscle. Submuscular placement is sometimes referred to as "complete unders."
  • subpectoral placement — Breast implants placed with the upper two-thirds behind the pectoralis muscle. Subpectoral placement is sometimes referred to as "partial unders."
  • synmastia — An unusual problem that occurs when the skin over the sternum is pulled from the bone and tents upward, making the breasts appear to merge. Also called "breadloafing."

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T

  • tissue expander — An adjustable implant that can be inflated with salt water to stretch the tissue at the mastectomy site to create a new tissue flap for implantation of the breast implant.
  • TRAM flap breast reconstruction — A breast reconstruction method where tissue from the transverse rectus abdominus, a muscle in the lower abdomen, is used to form a new, natural looking breast.
  • transaxillary incision — An incision used in breast augmentation surgery made in the armpit. Also called the armpit incision.
  • TUBA incision — An incision used in breast augmentation surgery made at the rim of the bellybutton.
  • tubular breasts — A breast deformity where the breasts are underdeveloped and the areola appears stretched, resulting in a tubular-shaped breasts.

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U

  • ultrasound — A diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of internal organs. Ultrasounds are used to examine breast abnormalities detected by breast cancer screening tests.
  • umbilical — Relating to the navel or bellybutton.
  • "unders" — Refers to the subpectoral implant placement, which involves placing the upper two-thirds of the breast implant behind the pectoralis muscle, or the submuscular implant placement, which involves placing the breast implant directly behind the pectoralis muscle.
  • unilateral — Pertains to one side of the body.

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W

  • wrinkling — Wrinkling under the skin, more noticeable with textured implants, that is usually mild, requires no treatment and improves or even disappears within a year.

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more resources:

  • Breast Surgery Procedures — Learn about other breast surgery procedures — Breast Lifts, Breast Reduction and Breast Reconstruction.
  • Breast Anatomy — Understanding the general anatomy of the breasts is helpful to women considering Breast Implants.
  • Breast Cancer Screening — All women, including those with breast implants, should undergo regular Breast Cancer Screenings.

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