What To Know About Managing Existing Breast Implants

If you had to think of the most popular cosmetic surgical procedures, chances are, you’d guess breast augmentation – and you’d be absolutely correct. Since 2006, this type of surgery, colloquially referred to as a “boob job,” has been ranking in the top five cosmetic surgical procedures, according to a report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. That’s no surprise: For many patients, increasing breast size can have a life-changing positive effect on self-esteem and appearance.

But it’s important to know that, as with any surgical procedure, risks can occur over time. This is especially true with existing breast implants. In fact, most breast implants have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, after which patients may come in with concerns about rupture or capsular contracture. But how does this happen? And what are the risks? Here, AW Plastic Surgery experts share what you need to know about managing the integrity of your breast implants, any associated complications, and your options when it comes to removal or replacement.

1. What is the lifespan of breast implants?

If you’re looking to move up a cup size – or two, or more – there’s no question that breast augmentation will help you achieve just that. It’s a dramatic transformation; once you’re through the post-operative recovery period, the results are immediate. For a lot of patients, these results last long. For others, they have a shorter lifespan. “Implants are not lifetime devices,” AW Plastic Surgery experts say. “Typically, patients have them either removed or replaced within 10 years.”

2. How do breast implants change over time?

Now that we’ve established that breast implants aren’t forever, you might be wondering how they’ll change as time progresses. First, some background: When an implant is placed within your body, scar tissue begins forming around this newly introduced “foreign object.” This is your body’s normal healing process kicking in, and in the case of breast augmentation, it’s what keeps your implants in place. “All implants form a capsule of scar tissue around the implant,” AW Plastic Surgery experts say. “Over time, this can thicken and develop into what is known as capsular contracture.”

3. What exactly is capsular contracture?

Over time, that capsule of scar tissue can thicken and harden. In severe cases, this can lead to several complications: pain, soreness, hardening of breasts, and change in breast shape, to name a few. Capsular contracture can occur at any point after surgery – which is why patients should be attuned to their bodies and schedule regular check-ins with their surgeons. “This does not happen in all patients, but it’s more common the longer implants are in place,” AW Plastic Surgery experts say.

4. What happens if implants rupture?

According to AW Plastic Surgery experts, the No. 1 reason patients undergo reoperation is to upsize to larger implants. The second most common? Concerns about rupture. Capsular contracture, intense physical pressure, and a weak shell are a few factors that can lead to a tear in the implant, causing it to slowly leak or rupture. “When a patient comes in with concerns about a ruptured implant, we may recommend imaging such as ultrasound or MRI,” AW Plastic Surgery experts say. “However, these can often be inconclusive. Typically, if a patient is concerned about rupture, surgical removal and replacement of the implant will be recommended.”

5. When it comes to exchange or replacement, is there a difference between silicone or saline implants?

The short answer: No. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. “Oftentimes, implant exchange for saline implants may be precipitated by a rupture, which is much more apparent with saline as the implant visibly deflates.” However, silicone gel is thicker, and it does not leak as the gel is fully cohesive (“gummy bear” implant). What’s more, patients looking to remove their saline-filled implants (without having them replaced) are more likely to be good candidates for an in-office procedure. On the other hand, silicone implants require rigorous washout in an operating room.

6. Are today’s implants safer?

The industry has come a long way since the first implants since the ‘60s, when the first silicone breast implants were invented. The implants available now are safer and more reliable than previous generations, and as a result, are less susceptible to rupture. “With each new generation of implants, both the shell technology and the cohesiveness of the silicone gel improve,” AW Plastic Surgery experts say. To extend the lifespan of your existing breast implant, make sure to carefully follow post-op care instructions, listen to your body, and check in with your surgeon.

Considering breast augmentation, revision, or removal of existing implants? Let us guide you through your options at AW Plastic Surgery. Reach out to us here for a consultation, and learn more about breast augmentation and what to expect afterwards. We’re here to help you on your journey to a happier, more confident life!