Skip to content


3 Differences Between Cosmetic Breast Enhancements and Breast Reconstructive Surgery

May 21st, 2021 | Posted in: Breast Enhancement, Breast Reconstruction |

3 Minute Read: 

Breasts play a significant role in how a woman perceives herself. Many women turn to aesthetic breast procedures, such as breast augmentation, breast lift surgery, or breast reduction, to increase (or remove) fullness and enhance breast shape. 

Woman crossing her arms over her bare breasts

However, some women select breast enhancement less by choice and more by necessity. These women often seek breast reconstruction.

So, what is the difference between these types of breast surgeries?

1. Surgical Motivation

Cosmetic breast enhancement is one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures performed today. Its primary goal is to enhance the breasts’ overall cosmetic appearance to make them more visually appealing/alluring.

This could either be through breast augmentation, which uses implants to increase the volume and improve the shape and symmetry of breasts, or fat injections to subtly increase fullness. Breast augmentation helps those with naturally small breasts or noticeable asymmetry, making it incredibly difficult to find tops and bras that fit.

In many cases, cosmetic breast enhancement also includes lifting and tightening the breast tissue and repositioning the nipple to make the results more natural-looking.

Alternatively, some women wish to remove some of their excess breast tissue and fat for smaller, more compact, and more manageable breasts.

Breast augmentation, breast lift surgery, and breast reduction are all considered cosmetic breast enhancements.

On the other hand, breast reconstructive surgeries are usually meant to treat the effects of mastectomy, congenital conditions, injuries, or illness. Breast reconstruction aims to restore the breasts as closely as possible to their original appearance and size. The procedure is both physically and emotionally rewarding for patients, helping them boost their self-esteem, self-image, and quality of life.

2. Implant Placement Process

In cosmetic breast augmentation, implants are placed under the breast tissue or chest muscles in a single procedure that takes about one to two hours. 

Conversely, implant breast reconstruction is performed in two stages. Since women who have a mastectomy do not have adequate breast tissue, a tissue expander is initially used to stretch the tissue of the breast mound. Once the desired breast size is achieved, a second surgery is performed to place the implants.

Women who have implants placed for cosmetic breast enlargement usually have their natural breast tissue cover the implants, acting like a protective layer that prevents the implant from becoming too visible. 

This won’t be the case with breast reconstruction, as the tissue padding left to cover the implant can be quite thin. Therefore, many reconstructive surgeries require a tissue flap (usually taken from the back or abdomen) to restore the natural tissue layer. 

3. Insurance Coverage

Cosmetic breast enhancement is considered elective; this means that insurance will likely not cover the cost. The only exception is with breast reduction, as it is often performed to reduce physical pain.

Unlike cosmetic breast enhancements, breast reconstruction is considered medically necessary. This surgery is usually covered by insurance, as was stated in the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA). 

Patients are required to check with their insurance providers to determine the extent of coverage.

Interested in Learning More?

If you would like to learn more about the differences between cosmetic breast enhancements and breast reconstructive surgery, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 310-586-3449 or fill our online form to schedule a consultation with our experienced and knowledgeable cosmetic surgery team.