Breast augmentation is by far the most popular cosmetic surgery in the United States, as well over 300,000 breast augmentations were performed in 2011, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). But having surgery for fuller, shapelier breasts can be a painful process that takes months before the implant “drops,” or moves into a natural-looking position in the breast.

For women who are nervous about experiencing pain after breast implant surgery or simply want faster results, Botox-assisted breast augmentation might be a good option. By injecting Botox into the pectoralis major muscles, which are located behind a woman’s breasts, your plastic surgeon can actually prevent these muscles from going into spasm after the procedure. This way, patients can experience reduced pain and a quicker recovery.

Not Just for Wrinkles: Botox Soothes Breast Implant Pain

It’s common knowledge that Botox is often used in the form of injections to minimize the appearance of lines and wrinkles in a person’s face. But in February 2012, Matthew Schulman, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon and assistant professor of plastic surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, announced the development of Botox-assisted breast augmentation to decrease the muscle pain associated with breast implants as well as the duration of the recovery process. Dr. Schulman reports that he and his patients have been satisfied with the results: “I’ve incorporated it into my normal breast augmentation technique,” he says.

How Botox-Assisted Breast Augmentation Works

Schulman explains that while recovering from a standard breast augmentation procedure, most women experience painful muscle spasms in their chest muscles. For a period, these spasms can cause the implant to sit higher in the breast than it should. Shulman developed Botox-assisted breast augmentation to speed the “drop” of the implants into a woman’s breasts.

To limit and sometimes even prevent these spasms, Schulman injects Botox into areas of the patient’s pectoralis muscles just before he inserts the breast implants beneath these muscles. Similar to how these injections work in a person’s face, the Botox blocks the action of the nerve and “prevents the pectoralis muscles from going into spasm,” says Brian Howard, MD, plastic surgeon at North Fulton Plastic Surgery in Roswell, Ga., and one of the few doctors in the United States other than Schulman who currently offers Botox-assisted breast augmentation. “Because we’ve limited that spasm, we’ve helped [the patient] control that pain,” Dr. Howard adds.

Reduced or eliminated muscle spasms allow the implants to fall into a normal position much faster than they would normally. Shulman reports that instead of waiting three to four months for the implants to drop, his patients are seeing the results they want after only six weeks.

Schulman says that the Botox does not limit or weaken a woman’s normal range of movement, nor does it completely paralyze the muscle. “I put [Botox] in exactly the areas of the muscles that I want to weaken,” says Schulman. “I don’t inject any more Botox than I would use for a heavy dose on the face. It’s well within a safe range.” If you choose to have Botox-assisted breast augmentation, you can expect the effect of the Botox to wear off about three months after surgery, which is “exactly the length of time you want it to work,” says Schulman.

Considerations Before You Ask For Botox-Assisted Breast Augmentation

Botox-assisted breast augmentation is considered an off-label use of Botox, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved the procedure. Most of the risks and complications associated with Botox-assisted breast augmentation surgery are the same as traditional breast augmentation surgery, including:

  • Pain in the breast or nipple area
  • Scar tissue formation around the implant
  • Deflation or rupture of the implant
  • Need for additional surgery

With Botox-assisted breast augmentation, Howard says that women must also be aware of the possibility that the injection could hit a blood vessel, which may cause bruising, or, in very rare cases, the botulinum toxin could spread to different parts of the body and cause symptoms of botulism. For this reason, only a board-certified plastic surgeon should perform Botox-assisted breast augmentation.

Botox-Assisted Breast Augmentation Comes at a Higher Cost

Another thing to consider before signing up for Botox