Background: The psychological aspects of cosmetic breast augmentation have been the focus of a great deal of empiric study over the past 40 years.
Methods: Studies investigating the preoperative characteristics and psychosocial status of women interested in breast augmentation are reviewed. Investigations of postoperative satisfaction and psychosocial changes are discussed. The results of the seven epidemiologic studies that have identified a relationship between cosmetic breast augmentation and suicide are detailed.
Results: Methodologic limitations of the studies investigating the preoperative psychosocial status of breast augmentation candidates make it difficult to draw firm conclusions about the potential psychological differences between these women and those not interested in breast augmentation. Postoperative satisfaction rates are high, and several studies suggest that patients experience improvements in body image following surgery. The effects of breast augmentation on other areas of psychological functioning are less clear. Based on the seven epidemiologic studies published to date, the suicide rate among women with cosmetic breast implants is two to three times the expected rate.
Conclusions: The literature in this area should be used to guide the psychosocial assessment and management of cosmetic breast augmentation patients. There currently is little evidence to support a recommendation that all women who present for cosmetic breast augmentation be required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before surgery. Given the relationship between breast implants and suicide, however, it is recommended that women with a history of psychopathology who present for breast augmentation, or those who are suspected by the plastic surgeon of having some form of psychopathologic abnormality, should undergo a mental health consultation before surgery.