Cosmetic Surgery Tips

Breast Augmentation With Scoliosis

There’s no denying that breast augmentation is becoming more and more popular. But with so many women getting this procedure, how can you know if it’s right for you?

If you’re considering breast augmentation, you might want to consider your lifestyle and your body type. Here are a few things to consider:

Are you active? Do you spend a lot of time in the sun? If so, you may want to consider going with silicone implants. They’re much less likely to rupture than saline implants and won’t change size or shape as much over time.

Do you have scoliosis? If so, breast augmentation may not be the best option for you. While it’s possible that your surgeon could correct some of the curve in your spine during surgery, there’s no guarantee that this will make things any better. It could even make them worse!

Breast Augmentation With Scoliosis

Background

Achieving satisfactory results may be difficult in augmentation mammaplasty patients in the presence of breast, chest wall, or vertebral deformities. These deformities have not been classified previously, and the impact of each deformity or combination of deformities has not been defined.

Objectives

The aims of this study are to determine the complicating factors in augmentation mammaplasty, to classify these factors according to their influence on surgical outcome, and to develop an identification system for simplifying the recognition of challenging cases.

Methods

We retrospectively analyzed photographs and records of 100 consecutive patients who underwent augmentation mammaplasty. We observed suboptimal results in 18 cases. Preoperative deformities of the breast, chest wall, and vertebra were recorded in order to determine which factor or factors had complicated the surgeries. Eventually, the relationship between suboptimal surgical results and complicating factors was evaluated.

Results

We observed that some deformities alone caused suboptimal results, whereas others did not. Deformities that caused suboptimal results alone were called major complicating factors, and any others were called minor complicating factors. We observed that suboptimal results were also obtained in patients who had four minor complicating factors. Patients who had suboptimal results because of major or minor complicating factors were considered challenging cases.

Augmentation mammaplasty is a common procedure with a high patient satisfaction rate. 1 , 2 Consistently achieving aesthetic results in augmentation mammaplasty depends on many factors that the surgeon must consider. Some of these are under the control of the surgeon such as implant choice, surgical technique, and preoperative patient education. However, there are additional factors that can affect the final outcome including existing breast, chest wall, or vertebral deformities. These deformities are not uncommon and they can lead to suboptimal outcomes unless they are noted and managed by the surgeon. In some cases, an existing deformity might become more noticeable during an augmentation mammaplasty. Preoperative identification of these deformities is important for preoperative patient education and for operative planning. Many of these deformities (such as pectus excavatum, scoliosis, and tuberous breast deformity) have been previously described, and authors have reported successful breast augmentations using multiple variations in these cases. 3-13 The aim of this study is to classify preoperative deformities according to the degree that they can influence the aesthetic outcome in breast augmentation, and to develop a preoperative identification system in order to recognize challenging augmentation mammaplasty cases.

METHODS

We retrospectively analyzed 100 consecutive patients who underwent augmentation mammaplasty between January 2011 and October 2012. All patients were operated on by a single surgeon. Augmentation mastopexy patients were excluded from this study, although patients with minimal ptosis who received an implant alone were included. We also excluded patients who required breast reconstruction techniques (expanders or flaps), such as cases of severe Poland’s syndrome. The study was approved by the Department of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery at Gulhane Military Medical Academy (Ankara, Turkey), complied with the declaration of Helsinki guidelines, and informed consent was obtained from all patients.

The breast augmentation was done through an inframammary or a periareolar incision and gel implants were used in all patients. All patients received round implants except for two, who received anatomical implants at their request. The profile (moderate or high) and surface (smooth or textured) of the implant was decided according to preoperative breast volume, skin quality of the breast, and patient request. If the patient had nipple asymmetry (in case of vertical or lateral nipple-areola complex [NAC] malposition) or had tuberous breasts, a periareolar incision was used. In all other patients an inframammary incision was used. Our preference is for smooth implants for dual-plane pockets, and textured implants for subglandular pockets. We obtained standard front, left/right lateral, and left/right oblique views of the patients, preoperatively and postoperatively.

Three experienced plastic surgeons (FZ, YK, HK) with more than 10 years in practice independently evaluated the preoperative and postoperative photographs. Any evident abnormality in breast volume, NAC position, inframammary fold (IMF) position, or breast projection was defined as a suboptimal result. Intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) was also calculated to assess the inter-observer reliability. The authors then reviewed the patients’ records and developed a list of factors that could possibly have downgraded the outcome of the procedure, and the incidence of each of these deformities was identified. The number of preoperative deformities for each patient was determined, and the relationships between the suboptimal surgical results and these deformities were evaluated. Preoperative deformities were considered complicating factors and were then classified into major or minor factors. Major complicating factors were those that singularly led to a suboptimal outcome, and minor factors were those that led to a suboptimal outcome if they were present in combination (Table 1 ).

Table 1.

Table Demonstrates the Classification of the Complicating Factors Arising From Breast, Thoracic Wall and Vertebral Deformities

Breast DeformitiesThoracic Wall DeformitiesVertebral Deformities
Major complicating factors Tuberous Breast aPoland syndrome Pectus carinatumPectus excavatum Scoliosis 
Minor complicating factors Volume asymmetrySevere hypoplasiaMild ptosisPseudoptosisLateralized nippleConstricted base bAsymmetry of IMF cVertical nipple asymmetry Long thoraxFlaming rib Subtle vertebral deformities 

Complicating factors has been divided into two main group as major and minor. a Type 3 tuberous breast according to Grolleau classification. b Type 1-2 tuberous breast according to Grolleau classification. c IMF, Inframammary fold.

RESULTS

The average age of the 100 female patients was 26 (range, 21 to 38 years), and the average follow-up was 18 months (range, 10 to 36 months). Eighteen patients (18%) had suboptimal surgical results. ICC was found to be good and statistically significant for inter-observer reliability (ICC = 0.083, P < .001), showing enough consistency among the three observers. The average number of deformities per patient was 0.98 (range, 0 to 5 deformities). Breast, chest wall, or vertebral deformities were detected in 70 patients (70%). Whereas 19 of the patients had one deformity, the remaining 51 patients had more than one. The types and rates of deformities are shown in Table 2 . The most common deformity was IMF asymmetry, which was found in 21 patients. Lateral nipple malposition (asymmetry in the horizontal axis) was found in 13 patients, and asymmetry in the vertical axis was also found in 13 patients.

Table 2.

The Types and the Rate of Breast, Chest Wall or Vertebral Deformities

DeformityPatient (%)
Breast Asymmetry of IMF 21 
Severe hypoplasia 15 
Vertical nipple asymmetry 13 
Lateral malposition of nipple (bilateral) 
Volume asymmetry 
Constricted base 
Pseudoptosis (unilateral) 
Lateral malposition of nipple (unilateral) 
Pseudoptosis (bilateral) 
Tuberous breast 
Poland syndrome 
Chest wall Flaming rib 
Long thorax 
Pectus excavatum 
Pectus carinatum 
Vertebra Subtle vertebral deformities 
Scoliosis 

IMF, Inframammary fold.

Suboptimal outcomes resulted from either one major or at least four minor complicating factors. All patients who had no major complicating factor and had fewer than four minor factors had good results. Patients with suboptimal surgical results because of complicating factors were considered challenging cases. The types of deformities in these challenging cases are detailed in Table 3 . Seven of these patients had major complicating factors, and the remaining 11 patients had four or more minor factors. Although the challenging cases constituted 18% of our series, the reoperation or revision surgery rate was 5% and included fat grafting, implant exchange, implant reposition, and scar revision.

Table 3.

Details of the Challenging Cases Group

Deformity/Complicating FactorsReason of Suboptimal ResultPatient (%)
Lateralized nipple
Asymmetry of IMF
Constricted base
Severe hypoplasia  
4 minor 
Pseudoptosis
Asymmetry of IMF
Volume asymmetry
Vertical nipple asymmetry  
4 minor 
Pectus excavatum 1 major 
Pectus carinatum 1 major 
Long thorax
Severe hypoplasia
Vertical nipple asymmetry
Subtle vertebral deformity  
4 minor 
Tuberous breast 1 major 
Poland syndrome
Volume asymmetry
Vertical nipple asymmetry  
1 major
2 minor  
Scoliosis
Pseudoptosis
Volume asymmetry  
1 major
2 minor

 
Severe hypoplasia
Constricted base a
Volume asymmetry
Vertical nipple asymmetry
Flaming rib  
5 minor 
Total  18 

Seven patients in this challenging case group presented major complicating factor, and the remaining had at least four minor factors. IMF, Inframammary fold. a Type 1 and 2 tuberous breast according to Grolleau classification.

DISCUSSION

Proper surgical planning and patient education are important determinants of outcome in breast augmentation surgery. Any existing deformities in the breast or chest wall will make the surgery more challenging and affect the cosmetic outcome, thus these deformities should be considered. Preoperative identification of these deformities is one of the most important factors in surgical planning. Breast asymmetry is one of the most common deformities encountered. Its incidence has been reported to be 88% by Rohrich et al 3 ( n = 100) and 81.1% by DeLuca-Pytell et al 4 ( n = 375). However, not all asymmetry cases are challenging.

Recognition of these deformities preoperatively is important not only for patient counselling but also for surgical planning. Challenging cases in breast augmentation can be described as the cases that require more than the standard techniques to obtain optimal results. The distinction between major and minor complicating factors was done according to the degree of the effect of a specific deformity on the surgery or the outcome. In our study, major complicating factors were defined as those that could, if occurring alone, lead to a suboptimal result; the other complicating factors were defined as minor. Minor complicating factors have less of an effect on the final outcome and might even pass unnoticed if not corrected. However, when there is more than one minor complicating factor, it becomes more challenging to overcome these problems. Moreover, minor complicating factors can be easily overlooked if the preoperative examination is not sufficiently careful. In our study, we found that when there were four or more minor complicating factors, a suboptimal result was obtained. There were no patients with three or fewer minor complicating factors who had suboptimal results, which is why we determined the cut-off point to be four.

It is worthwhile to note that suboptimal results in our study were not evaluated or defined based on patient satisfaction because there were satisfied patients with suboptimal results. Similarly, there were patients who were not satisfied overall but were not categorized as suboptimal (such as patients who were not satisfied with volume). Future studies may be needed to determine the relationship and correlation between suboptimal results and patient satisfaction. The complicating factors we encountered in our series are presented in Table 2 , but it is possible that additional major or minor complicating factors such as kyphosis or sunken chest can exist in other surgeons’ series.

The relationship between body mass index (BMI) and augmentation mammaplasty is not studied enough in the literature. Some studies show that patients with high or low BMI have more postoperative complications. 14 , 15 In our series, we did not determine the patients’ BMI, but it is known that patients with low BMI are prone to breast hypoplasia with diminished skin envelope, which can make a case challenging. In our study, severe hypoplasia of the breast was considered a minor complicating factor. In contrast, patients with high BMI are more prone to requiring reduction or augmentation mastopexy. Augmentation mastopexy patients were excluded from this study, and in this series we had no patients who were overweight.

Pectus excavatum is a deformity that is usually treated by a thoracic surgeon in childhood. Different techniques, such as thoracic surgery combined with mammaplasty, 5 , 6 customized implants, 7 , 8 and cartilage shaving 9 have been used in augmentation mammaplasty in the presence of chest wall deformities. Thoracic surgery appears to be mandatory in severe cases, especially if it is accompanied by a cardiovascular anomaly. Nevertheless, camouflage surgery should be primarily considered in mild and moderate cases. When this deformity is mild or moderate, it is easily overlooked or underestimated by both the surgeon and the patient. Thus, mild or moderate deformities are perhaps much more important in decision making during augmentation mammaplasty. If the pectus excavatum deformity is not managed during surgery, the deformity will be more prominent after surgery. Moscona et al 10 determined that camouflage of the deformity could be achieved with medial placement of the implants. However, this should be limited because it might result in lateral malposition of the nipple off the center of the breast mound. Another option for camouflaging the deformity is lipofilling, which is an easy method that can be performed repeatedly (Figure 1 ).

Figure 1.

(A, C) Preoperative and (B, D) one year postoperative photographs of a 32-year-old woman with pectus excavatum deformity (one major complicating factor). Some medial placement of the breast implant and lipofilling to the sternum was planned to correct the deep depression on the sternum. The distance between the medial ends of both implant pockets (dual plane) was planned to be 3 cm (A). Breast augmentation with bilateral 275 cc round, smooth surface breast implant (Mentor Corporation, Santa Barbara, CA) was performed, and fat transfer was repeated after six months. Please note the lateral malposition of the implant in the left breast.

(A, C) Preoperative and (B, D) one year postoperative photographs of a 32-year-old woman with pectus excavatum deformity (one major complicating factor). Some medial placement of the breast implant and lipofilling to the sternum was planned to correct the deep depression on the sternum. The distance between the medial ends of both implant pockets (dual plane) was planned to be 3 cm (A). Breast augmentation with bilateral 275 cc round, smooth surface breast implant (Mentor Corporation, Santa Barbara, CA) was performed, and fat transfer was repeated after six months. Please note the lateral malposition of the implant in the left breast.

Scoliosis deformity, even if subtle, may present as breast asymmetry. 11 There is a correlation between the severity of scoliosis and the difference in breast volumes. 12 In a case with apparent breast asymmetry, it is important to determine whether the asymmetry is caused solely by volumetric difference or if there is a contribution of vertebral deformity. Although in both instances the goal is to eliminate the asymmetric appearance, we believe that scoliosis is a major complicating factor in augmentation mammaplasty because even if the volume asymmetry is compensated for by different size implants, it is generally impossible to correct the asymmetric illusion caused by vertebral scoliosis in these patients (Figure 2 ). Because the frontal view displays the patient’s shoulders, it is a direct and easy way of recognizing vertebral deformities. However, for legal concerns, it may be recommended to obtain a preoperative dorsal view as well in any patient with a serious vertebral deformity.

Figure 2.

(A, C, E) Preoperative and (B, D, F) two year postoperative photographs of a 37-year-old woman with scoliosis, right breast pseudoptosis, and volume asymmetry (one major and two minor complicating factors). A scoliosis deformity can be noticed when the patient's axillary folds (horizontal line) and waist lines (white arrows) are bilaterally compared. Breast asymmetry was corrected only using inframammary incision because the patient was refused mastopexy incision. Bilateral 325 cc round textured breast implants (Mentor Corporation, Santa Barbara, CA) were used.

(A, C, E) Preoperative and (B, D, F) two year postoperative photographs of a 37-year-old woman with scoliosis, right breast pseudoptosis, and volume asymmetry (one major and two minor complicating factors). A scoliosis deformity can be noticed when the patient’s axillary folds (horizontal line) and waist lines (white arrows) are bilaterally compared. Breast asymmetry was corrected only using inframammary incision because the patient was refused mastopexy incision. Bilateral 325 cc round textured breast implants (Mentor Corporation, Santa Barbara, CA) were used.

NAC position can be asymmetric on both the vertical and horizontal axes. Asymmetrically placed NAC on the horizontal axis was first described by Khan. 13 The author reported that the rate of asymmetrically positioned NAC in the horizontal plane was 12%. We found this rate to be 13% in our study. Augmentation mammaplasty could have resulted in more prominent nipple lateralization if it had been performed without regarding the lateral nipple malposition. Lateralization of an implant pocket, which was proposed by Khan, 13 may be performed in mild lateral NAC malposition, but it may cause two significant effects in moderate or severe cases: (1) increasing the intermammary distance in bilateral cases; and (2) breast asymmetries in unilateral cases. Our preference in patients with moderate or severe horizontal NAC malposition is to perform crescentic de-epithelialization on the medial side of the nipple through perinipple-areaola complex incision.

There are challenges in obtaining satisfactory augmentation results in severe hypoplastic breasts because of inadequate breast tissue. The implant should be large enough to satisfy the patient but should not cause excessive tension on the soft tissue envelope. Over-augmentation of the breast may increase the risk of sensory loss in the nipple. 16 In addition, the possibility of palpability of the implant may contribute to obtaining a suboptimal result. The patient’s body type (such as asthenic or pyknic) should also be considered in the process of implant selection. A patient with an asthenic body type has a diminished chest circumference and increased chest height (long thorax). An anatomically shaped breast implant may be a better option than a round implant in these situations 17 ( Supplementary Figure 1 ).

All of the surgical techniques that have been described for correcting breast ptosis include vertical or perinipple-areaola complex scarring. The “donut” mastopexy permits either correcting minor ptosis or inserting the implant with the upward shifting of the NAC by a perinipple-areaola complex approach. 18 , 19 Dual-plane augmentation is a common technique that has been shown to be sufficient in patients with mild ptosis. 20

DeLuca-Pytell 4 reported the rate of tuberous breast deformity as 73%. However, Zambacos 21 expressed that this rate was quite high compared with his observations. In the present study, our findings were similar to those from Zambacos’ previous report. In our series, we determined Type 1 (lower medial quadrant deficiency) and Type 2 (deficiency in both lower quadrants) in six patients and Type 3 (all four quadrants deficient with constriction of breast base horizontally and vertically) in three patients, according to the Grolleau classification system. 22 Although correction methods for tuberous breast deformity have been described in the literature, there is no doubt that this deformity is a challenging factor. In cases of base constriction (Types 1 and 2), the deformity can be corrected only by parenchymal or soft tissue scoring. Therefore, Types 1 and 2 deformities (according to the Grolleau classification) 22 are considered minor complicating factors, and Type 3 deformities are considered a major complicating factor.

The minor deformities that patients are unaware of should be revealed at the time of surgical planning. If these minor deformities go unnoticed by the surgeon, standard augmentation techniques may greatly increase the existing deformity. In addition, the patient may not be aware of the preoperative deformity, but because of focusing on her breasts postoperatively, she may notice these mild deformities for the first time. Therefore, revealing and identifying the deformity with meticulous preoperative evaluation, and explaining it to the patient, are very important. Our study is a retrospective study. Thus, we did not use these complicating factors during the preoperative evaluation of our series. However, after the results of our study, we are using these risk factors for the preoperative evaluation and counseling of the patients, currently.

Evaluation of breast augmentation surgery outcomes is not yet standardized. Although different objective and reproducible measurement methods such as surveys, 23 measurements, 24 and photographic evaluations 25 have been proposed, none of them has been clinically useful because they are very complex or expensive. Objective/numeric measurements lack evaluation of the overall breast appearance, which is another important limitation of these techniques. As a result, the evaluation of augmentation mammaplasty remains mostly based on visual outcome measures and remains subjective. However, although it is not widely used, we believe that three-dimensional photography will add to the evaluation methods for these cases. Even if the optimal postoperative aesthetic outcome could not be achieved, the patient could be satisfied just because of the self-esteem improvement. Thus, instead of using a patient satisfaction survey, we preferred to perform photographic analysis in accordance with our study’s purpose.

Even though asymmetry is a common breast deformity, not all asymmetry cases are challenging. However, considerable numbers of challenging cases are asymmetric. The patient should be informed about possible staged operations, alternative treatment options, and suboptimal results if the case is challenging. 26 The patient’s refusal of the offer may further complicate the surgeon’s work. 27 The rate of challenging cases was 18% in our study. Documentation of this rate is important in order to attract the attention of surgeons because it directs them to meticulous surgical planning. We suggest preoperative photographic analysis of patients because the minor deformities that go unnoticed during physical examination can be identified in the patients’ images. When we encounter challenging cases, we should find alternative solutions because there is usually another way to satisfy the patients’ expectations.

There are a number of drawbacks to this study. Our series was limited to 100 patients only, and larger series may be needed to confirm the cut-off point of four minor complicating factors that we found in this study. Our goal was to highlight the differences in impact between major and minor complicating factors. Additionally, it would be useful to perform a prospective study to evaluate the relationship between suboptimal outcomes and BMI, to implement the classification system and determine its clinical relevance. Patient satisfaction scores may also be added in further studies to evaluate the correlation between surgeon and patient satisfaction. Finally, surgeon-related factors could obviously change the outcomes of breast augmentation surgery. Our series was composed of 100 breast augmentations performed by a single experienced surgeon.

In this study, complicating factors in augmentation mammaplasty were defined and classified, yielding a new identification system to aid in recognizing challenging cases. This identification system is easy to apply and is important for the surgeon for correct planning of the surgical procedure and for preoperative patient counselling. This system can be improved with additional studies, and algorithmic approaches can also be developed for correcting each specific complicating factor. Approximately one out of every five augmentation mammaplasty patients has deformities of the breast, chest wall, or vertebrae that can downgrade the cosmetic outcome if not recognized preoperatively.

If you’ve done your research on scoliosis, then you already know that this condition can impact just about every part of the body. Some of these effects are visible, but many can only be seen by an X-ray. One such hidden effect is uneven breast size. This happens for several reasons:

The spine itself is actually off center, stretching the chest and ribs on one side to a greater degree than on the other side.

Because of this imbalance in pressure, muscles become more prominent on one side while they atrophy on the other side—creating asymmetry in breast shape as well as overall appearance.

If left untreated, this unevenness may become more pronounced over time with the aid of gravity. It’s important to note that scoliosis doesn’t just affect women; men can experience asymmetrical breast tissue too. In addition to your back and shoulders feeling tired or painful due to scoliosis-related postural issues, large breasts (or even very small ones) can also cause discomfort around your neck and back region because they’re always pulling downwards against gravity which puts extra pressure on those areas.”

Why does scoliosis cause unequal breast size?

Many women with scoliosis notice a difference in breast size, but there are a number of reasons why this may occur. Scoliosis can cause issues with posture, which can change how the rib cage sits within the body and affects the distribution of fat. If you have mild scoliosis and aren’t experiencing any pain or other symptoms, then it might be worth waiting until you’re older to decide whether or not you want to undergo breast reduction surgery.

If you do experience pain because of your scoliosis, then it’s important to speak with your doctor about all of your options for managing this condition. Breast reduction may be right for some people; however, if you’re considering having this procedure done as part of treating your scoliosis symptoms and they haven’t improved after six months following surgery (or if they’ve gotten worse), then it is unlikely that breast reduction will help correct these problems on its own—you would need additional treatments like chiropractic care or physical therapy instead.”

How are my breasts affected by scoliosis?

Scoliosis can cause your breasts to sag or become uneven, which can be a negative factor in your self-esteem and overall health. Breast reduction surgery may be an option for you if you are concerned about the way your breasts look and feel.

In most cases, breast reduction surgery is done under general anesthesia in a hospital or outpatient surgery center. The procedure takes about one to two hours to complete and often requires several weeks of recovery time. During this period, you will need someone else to help with household tasks such as cooking and cleaning until you feel well enough to take care of yourself again.

How can I tell if my breasts are asymmetrical?

If you think your breasts are asymmetrical, there are several ways to check. The most obvious is by looking in the mirror. This can sometimes be difficult because it’s hard to see yourself as others see you, but if you’re not sure, try having a friend who knows what symmetrical breasts look like examine them for you. You might also ask your doctor for help or advice about this issue. Additionally, if possible and safe for your health conditions and situation, use a tape measure to measure the distance between each breast’s nipple and the center of each breast (point A).

Learn more about breast reduction surgery for scoliosis patients.

Breast reduction surgery can improve the look of your breasts, but it’s important to understand that breast reduction does not completely eliminate the symptoms of scoliosis. The purpose of breast reduction is to help reduce back pain and improve your quality of life by removing extra skin and fat from your breasts.

If you’re considering breast reduction surgery for scoliosis patients, be sure to consult with your doctor about how this procedure will affect your condition.

Scoliosis can cause an imbalance in breast size, but breast reduction surgery can help.

Breast reduction surgery is not a cure for scoliosis. However, it can help with the imbalance in breast size that many patients with scoliosis experience. For example, imagine you have one breast that is significantly larger than the other and it’s causing back pain. A breast reduction surgery could reduce or eliminate this problem by removing fat, skin, and tissue from your larger breast so that both breasts are of similar size and weight.

Breast reduction surgery is not only for women who have diagnosed scoliosis; it’s also an option for women who are experiencing discomfort due to an excess amount of tissue on their breasts but do not have any curvature in their spine.

Conclusion

Breast reduction surgery is an ideal way to correct this imbalance, as it involves removing excess tissue from the larger breast and adding it to the smaller breast. This procedure can be performed alongside other types of surgeries that scoliosis patients undergo, such as spinal fusion operations or corrective osteotomies.

We hope we’ve answered any questions you may have had about why your breasts are different sizes and how they’re affected by scoliosis!

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