Understanding the Effect of Breast Augmentation on Quality of Life

Breast augmentation is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the United States.  An estimated 300,000 women undergo the procedure each year in the Unites States alone.

In my own practice, the positive effects of breast augmentation on self esteem and quality of life are seen every day.  Patients routinely seem more confident, make more eye contact, and are energetic and thankful after their breast augmentation.  After all, the true reason that people undergo any cosmetic procedure is that they want to feel better about themselves.

So how much better do people feel about themselves?  Am I really achieving the benefits and desired outcome for my patients that I think I am?  These are fair questions and important questions to answer in the modern era of evidence based medicine.

Until recently, the plastic surgery community had very little objective (number based) evidence to support our quality of life improvement claims.  In the April, 2014 issue of the scientific journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, a multicenter, high powered study was published that quantified the amount of improvement that women can experience in their quality of lives after breast augmentation.  The results may surprise you.

Over 600 women participated in the study.  They underwent highly controlled interviews and surveys to measure their quality of life improvements 6 weeks from surgery and 6 months from surgery.  All implants were placed in the submuscular plane.  Both saline and silicone implants were used depending on patient preference.

The study showed that women were 211% more satisfied with their breasts at the 6 week interval and 228% more satisfied with their breasts at the 6 month interval on average.  Psychosocial well being (Self esteem) also improved 64% at the 6 week interval and 65% at the 6 month interval over baseline.  Sexual well being also improved to 114% of baseline at 6 weeks and 122% over baseline at 6 months.  In a surprising finding, physical well being (ability to exercise and perform physical activity) decreased after breast augmentation.  Physical well being decreased 25% at 6 weeks and remained slightly lower at 12% below baseline at 6 months.

As a plastic surgeon, I am thrilled that my esteemed colleagues have published these precise and objective findings so that I can communicate them to my patients.  I found the findings on improved satisfaction with breasts, psychosocial well being (self esteem), and sexual well being to confirm my experiences in my practice.  The slight decrease in physical activity observed is likely multifactorial.  Difficulty with exercise has been very well described in the population of women seeking breast reduction.  I theorize that by enhancing breast size, a slight decrease in physical activity is traded for increased self esteem, satisfaction with breasts, and sexual well being.  Ultimately, it is the patient’s decision.  I congratulate the authors of the study on answering a very difficult and important question for the plastic surgery community.

Source:    Amy K.Alderman – Joseph Bauer – Dean Fardo – Paul Abrahamse – Andrea Pusic. Understanding the Effect of Breast Augmentation on Quality of Life. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery – April, 2014 787-795.

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