Breast Implant Removal and Replacement Procedure

Removing or replacing a breast implant is possible, but is as significant a procedure as having it implanted in the first case Here's our guide to the procedure and the risks and benefits.

Reasons for Removal or Replacement

Around 70 percent of women who have breast implants removed do so because an implant has ruptured or, in the case of a saline implant, it has lost size and shape over time. Some women may choose to have an implant removed even if it is still in its original condition, for example if they have changed their minds about having breast enhancements.

Rupturing

The effects of a ruptured implant, and diagnosing the rupture, vary depending on the implant type. With saline implants, the leakage will normally cause a visibly noticeable change in the breast's size and firmness quite quickly. With a silicone gel implant, the implant itself does not usually change size or shape even after a rupture as there is no leakage. You may notice the rupture because of pain caused by the body reacting to the ruptured implant or increased capsular contracture, which is where scar tissue around the implant tightens. In many cases you may not discover a rupture until it shows up on a mammogram, MRI or other medical scan.

What Is Involved?

The procedure will be preceded by a consultation, during which your surgeon will show you various implants of different shapes and sizes. This can help you decide which implant to choose for your replacement. The procedure itself should take around an hour and half, and your surgeon will likely use the existing scar from your prior surgery to make the incision and remove your implants. If you are increasing the size of your implants, your surgeon may need to carry out a capsulectomy to make room. Your surgery will be carried out under general anesthetic, and most patients are able to return home the following day.


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Procedure

Breast implant removal and replacement surgery is carried out under general anaesthetic and involves an initial incision either under the fold of the breast or around the areola. Usually the surgeon will make an incision into the silicon capsule and then remove the implant itself; this process can be easier with saline implants where the saline can be removed gradually to deflate the implant before removal. If you are having a replacement, it will normally be inserted as part of the same procedure.

Following the surgery, you will normally need to spend one to two nights in hospital and then up to two weeks recovering at home. You will have to wear a special support bra for several weeks.

Risks and Recovery

breast implant patient

Removal and replacement surgeries carry the same rare but significant risks as any form of surgery: potential unwanted reactions to the anaesthetic, excessive bleeding and infection. There is also a specific risk with silicon gel implant removal: if the surgeon is unable to remove all of the gel from a damaged implant, it could lead to complications. Removal without replacement may lead to an unwanted change in the shape of the breasts (beyond a simple decrease in size) and could produce more visible scarring than the original implant.

It is common for people to feel some pain around the incision, which can easily be treated with over-the-counter medication. The breast implant pockets are normally undisturbed during an extraction and replacement, so most patients find the recovery less painful than that of the initial enhancement. Normally, you can return to carrying out light everyday tasks the day after you are discharged from hospital, as long as it is nothing strenuous. Over the coming weeks, you can gradually build up until you are able to return to full capacity at around four to five weeks following your surgery.


Costs

Though prices vary among providers, both removal and replacement procedures have a significant cost. The amount can approach the cost of the original implant procedure as you will be receiving the same level of professional care and treatment. The precise cost can vary depending on the procedure you need and the effects of any rupturing of the implant, so it is well worth getting personalised quotes. Bear in mind that private medical insurance often will not cover the costs of removal or replacement, even if it is made necessary by a rupture to the implant.

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