How Long Do Breast Implants Last?
Breasts implants do not last forever - you will need to have them removed and/or replaced in the future. Whilst is is impossible to predict the exact lifespan of breast implants, they typically last between 10 and 25 years.
Your breast implants will need removing and/or replacing once they become structurally unsafe and pose a risk to your health. This includes when they rupture, begin to ripple or cause a build-up of scar tissue around them.
When your implants need removing and/or replacing, you will need to undergo breast implant removal and replacement surgery. This involves a surgeon taking out your old implants and inserting a new pair.
Do Breast Implants Last Forever?
Implants are inserted into a woman’s breast tissue to enhance their appearance, by changing their size, shape and contour. Breast implants can be used in reconstructive surgery to restore a natural looking breast in post-mastectomy patients, or in those with congenital breast anomalies. Breast implants can also be used for aesthetic reasons to enlarge the breast during breast augmentation surgery.
There are two main types of breast implant available in the UK: saline implants and silicone implants. Both are made of a flexible silicone outer shell, but the liquid inside this shell is different. Saline implants contain a sterile saline (salt water) solution, whilst silicone implants contain a syrupy silicone gel.
Once inserted into your breast tissue, breast implants do not last forever. Since they are a man-made object composed of a substance that does not naturally occur inside the body, they very gradually deteriorate to a point that they are no longer safe to be inside the body. When this occurs, your breast implants will need to be removed and/or replaced.
On average, breast implants last for up to 10 years before they need to be removed and/or replaced, although they have been known to remain safely intact inside the body for up to 25 years. It is impossible to predict the exact lifespan of breast implants – how long they will last will vary from patient to patient. You might find that yours last for 15 years, whilst your friends’ only last for 5 years. The lifespan of your breast implants will depend on:
- how damaged they become over time through normal wear and tear
- how damaged your surrounding breast tissue becomes from having a foreign object inserted into it
Bear in mind that your breast implants will only need removing and/or replacing once they have become unstable. There is no need to replace breast implants just because they are old if they are still intact and pose no risk to your health.
It can be difficult to know when your breast implants need to be removed and/or replaced, so it is advisable to visit your breast surgeon once every year. They can carry out tests to analyse the integrity of your implants and make an informed decision about whether it is safe for them to remain inside your body. Obviously, if you experience anything unusual with your implants you should make an appointment to see your surgeon as this could be an indication that they need removing and/or replacing.
When having breast enlargement surgery, it is therefore important to keep in mind that you will need to undergo surgery at least one more time in the future. Having implants inserted into your breasts is therefore a long-term commitment and a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Here Mr David Floyd, Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at The Royal Free Hospital, discusses how long breast implants last:
When Do Breast Implants Need To Be Replaced?
Breast implants can be removed and/or replaced for purely aesthetic reasons. You may want to change the size or shape of your implants, or simply want to revert to having natural breasts. In these circumstances, you can remove and/or replace your implants as and when you please.
However, there are a number of medical reasons why your breast implants would need to be removed and/or replaced. In these situations, removal and/or replacement is much more urgent and should be carried out as soon as possible to avoid you experiencing any health issues. Below we have outlined the main reasons why breast implants need to be removed and/or replaced for medical reasons:
Ruptured Or Leaking Implants
Sometimes implants can rupture, meaning that their contents leak out into your body. This is caused by a small hole or a large rip in the shell of the implant through which the fluid can escape. Older implants are more likely to rupture since they’ve become weakened by more wear and tear. However ruptures can also be caused by trauma that causes implants to burst, or because the implants were defective when inserted into your breasts.
You can tell if an implant has ruptured as it often causes pain, tingling, numbness, swelling or burning. However you may experience what is called a silent rupture, in which you are unaware that anything has happened at all. This is more common in those with a ruptured silicone implant. This is why it is so important to attend regular check-ups with your surgeon. If you suspect that you have a ruptured implant, consult your surgeon or GP immediately. They will be able to arrange either an MRI or an ultrasound scan to confirm if you have suffered a rupture. You will then need to undergo surgery to have the implant removed and/or replaced.
Sometimes, the outer shell of a breast implant can begin to ripple. This ripple can then be seen and felt through the breast tissue, causing unsightly wrinkles and a feeling of discomfort. Most often rippling is felt on the side of the breast or on its underside, typically when you are bending forward or in a position where your breasts are hanging down.
Rippling can be caused by a number of factors, including:
- Over- or under-filling of the breast implant
- Not enough breast tissue to comfortably cover the implant
- Subglandular (over the chest muscle) breast implant placement
If you experience rippling you will need surgery to have them removed and/or replaced to resolve the issue. Rippling tends to occur most often in those with saline implants, and in slender women who have had very large implants.
Once implants have been inserted into your breasts, scar tissue will develop around them. Capsular contracture occurs when this scar tissue surrounding your breast implants builds up and begins to harden as your immune system attempts to get rid of the foreign object inside your body. While a certain level of hardening is normal, too much hardening can cause complications. Typical symptoms of capsular contracture include hardening of your breasts and pain. The condition is diagnosed on a scale of I to IV:
- Grade I: the breast feels soft and normal
- Grade II: the breast feels less soft than usual, and the implant can be clearly felt when touched
- Grade III: the breast is hardened, the implant can easily be felt and located, and the breasts have become asymmetrical
- Grade IV: the breast has become hard, painful and tender, and there is an obvious, pronounced shape distortion
If you believe you are suffering from capsular contracture, you should contact your surgeon or GP immediately. They will carry out a physical examination of your breasts to confirm if the condition is present in one or both of your breasts. If you have a positive diagnosis, you will need to undergo surgery to have the scar tissue removed and your implants removed and/or replaced.
Breast Implant Replacement Surgery
The breast implant removal and replacement procedure is very similar to your original breast enlargement surgery. Your surgeon will access and remove your faulty implants through the same scars that were made in the original procedure, meaning you will not gain any additional scarring from this second surgery. If you are having your implants replaced, your new implants will then be inserted into your breasts and placed in the same location as your old implants, unless you had capsular contracture. In this circumstance, your surgeon will likely make a new pocket inside your breasts for the implants to sit in. The original scars will then be re-sealed using stitches. The recovery time will be the same as for your original surgery if you have further implants, and slightly shorter if you decide to just have your implants removed.