Lip implant surgery - or lip augmentation - aims to give an appearance of fuller and plumper lips, adding shape and definition through the use of implants, where lips may be deflated, flat or uneven.
The operation is normally carried out under a local anaesthetic and can take up to 30 minutes.
There are a wide range of lip augmentation materials and procedures available and choice is determined by a number of factors. If opting for permanent implants, the surgeon will normally make four small cuts at each corner of the mouth, and then insert the strip of implant material into each lip. The implant is usually made from synthetic materials (for example, Gore-Tex) and is cut to the size of your lips to achieve the desired effect. Once the procedure is complete, the incisions will be stitched.
Injectable materials, such as bovine collagen, are an alternative to artificial implants and most are temporary, some are permanent.
Following surgery, the lips may be very swollen and painful for a few days or weeks. If stitches are not dissolvable, they will need removing after 10-12 days.
Normally, you be able to leave the hospital within a few hours. You can return to work within a few days and resume most activities within one week.
Most people find that the shape or definition of their lips has changed as a result of this surgery. Artificial implants are permanent but most injectable materials are temporary, lasting between 3-6 months. Some are permanent (such as Aquamid).
All local anaesthesias carry associated risks, but complications particular to lip augmentation include infection, problems with wound healing and slippage of the implant, needing further surgery to correct. You may also experience difficulty talking, eating or smiling for a few days afterwards, even weeks.
Fluid build up under the skin (seroma) is a risk which may require further surgery to remove, as well as haematoma (blood clot under the skin). Some patients experience reduced sensation in the treated area due to nerve damage, which can be permanent.
More common are scar healing problems and the development of unsightly scars may depend on how your body heals. Sometimes, dry, peeling lips can be a problem.
You may be left with asymmetrical or discoloured lips. Over-injection of lip enhancement materials may produce undesirable results which is very problematic if a non-reversible permanent substance has been used.
Permanent implants cost more than temporary injectables. In the UK, expect to pay from around £3,000. Abroad, expect to pay from around £650 (Belgium) to around £1,000 (USA).
Lip augmentation is a specialist procedure available at some private cosmetic surgery clinics within the UK and abroad.
Lip augmentation is popular with people, normally women, who feel that their lips are too thin or flat, and they would like to make them look plumper and fuller to harmonise the features of the face more. People who have odd-shaped lips may also opt for this type of surgery, to even out the upper or lower lip.