Scientists from Georgia have found that, although a vacuum device promoted as a breast-enhancer does increase a woman's cup size, few women may have the time and commitment to use the product. The device, known as the BRAVA system, requires women to wear two plastic domes over their breasts for 10 hours a day for 10 weeks straight. The domes are connected to a battery operated, computerized vacuum device. Skipping even a day adds a week to the treatment.
However, the device does seem to be a viable alternative to surgery for women who want bigger breasts, according to Dr. Richard J. Greco, of the Georgia Institute for Plastic Surgery in Savannah. It is only appropriate for women who are a B cup or smaller and are willing to commit to the price and time required, he said.
Previous studies conducted by the inventors of BRAVA suggested that the device could lead to tissue growth not just temporary swelling resulting in long-term breast enhancement. Greco, a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons' Device and Technology Committee, attempted to verify those results in an independent study.
While many women expressed interest in the device, only eight women ended up in the study.Some women couldn't commit to the time involved, others had breasts that were too large or chests that were too narrow. Some felt the system was not worth the relatively small gain (one cup size) made in breast size.
According to Greco, a few patients dropped out because we could not make a definite statement as to whether or not this tissue growth stimulation would increase their likelihood of breast cancer in the future. The report says, of the original eight, two dropped out "because of the inconvenience the device created in their lives. Three of the six women who completed the study experienced an increase in breast size that was equal to one bra cup or more. The remaining three women experienced roughly half as much breast tissue growth, study findings indicate.
The "amount of enhancement is relative to (the woman's) size," Greco said. However, the increased breast size remains evident up to 15 months later, according to previous reports. Greco's study did not include long-term follow-up data.
The device is "relatively inconvenient, is heavy, and induces a fair amount of skin irritation along the silicone border/skin interface," Greco writes. "Yet the motivation to have larger breasts seems to overcome this in the correctly chosen individual." The system is also known to cause initial swelling that goes down as the treatment continues, Greco said.
And many of the women experienced technical difficulties with malfunctioning equipment and needed 15 to 30 minutes on a biweekly basis with customer service to help them through the process. The system can be worn during sleep but an alarm will sound if the user inadvertently rolls over the cord, Greco said. This can result in sleep deprivation, a reason one woman cited when she dropped out of the study. The other woman dropped out because of the time commitment required, the researcher said.
Although reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), BRAVA is not regulated by the agency. The ideal candidate for BRAVA would be an individual who does not have a full time job, or someone who begins to use the device immediately after work and is able to sleep in it, Greco said.
Those who obtain the roughly $2,000 device from an authorized physician and are not satisfied with the results or with the inconvenience, however, will not be able to obtain a refund, according to the researcher. "Understand that you're trading off the risks of surgery with the inconvenience of having to wear" the BRAVA device, Greco said.