How Long Will Breast Implants Last
Will Breast Implants Last Forever?
A very small percentage of breast implants fail within three years and research suggests that breast implants that are under-filled, whether silicone gel or saline, will fail before optimum filled breast implants. The main reason that plastic surgeons will under fill a breast implant is to reduce the 'round look' and promote a breast that is softer to touch. It has been reported by surgeons that seventy-five percent of breast implants last for fifteen years or more and textured breast implants tend to fail quicker than non-textured implants.
What Are Implants Made Out Of?
Breast implants are made of one of two materials, saline or silicone. A saline implant is filled with salt water, while silicon implants can take many forms, including gel, liquid or solid. An implant consists of an outer shell, which is made of silicone elastomer, and then the filling, which either consists of the silicone or saline solution. The silicone implants are often firmer to the touch, and less likely to rupture or leak. However, saline has an advantage in the event that there is a leak. With silicone implants, the surrounding tissue will absorb any leakage, and so it can be difficult to know there has been a rupture at all. When saline leaks, it is absorbed into the body with no consequences – other than you will need breast implant revision surgery to replace the ruptured implant. Generally speaking, saline implants are easier to remove and replace than silicone.
Breast implants are available in two different shapes to allow patients to select something that looks and feels the most natural for them. Both saline and silicone implants can be round or anatomical in shape, the latter having the closest resemblance to the natural breast shape.
Capsular contracture is one of the most frequent reasons that breast revision surgery needs to take place.
As the breast recovers and the scar tissue shrinks following the surgery, a thin layer of this tissue hardens around the breast implants themselves. While a certain level of shrinkage is normal, too much can cause complications. Modern silicon shells have a lower rate of capsular contracture, but it is still possible. Textured implants or implants positioned under the muscle can also reduce the likelihood of this occurring.
If you suspect you have capsular contracture, book an appointment with your cosmetic surgeon. They will carry out a physical examination that will confirm if it is present in one or both breasts. Capsular contracture is normally 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 palpated (clearly felt as a foreign body with the hands)
- 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 obvious, pronounced shape distortion
Mr David Floyd, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital, explains what Capsular Contraction is and why a small number of breast surgery patients develop this complication:
"Because the breast implant is plastic and it’s recognised as a foreign body by the patient, the body makes a scar capsule around the implant, that’s a natural way that the body identifies it as separate from itself, and it controls the position of the implant very nicely. But in a small group of patients that scar capsule tightens and it shrinks and when it shrinks it makes the implant go hard, and that can distort the shape of the breast, it can be painful, and it can be very uncomfortable to live with.
It’s not very common and the modern implants have got strategies within them to minimize that happening, but it still happens in probably 5-10% of patients, of which maybe a tenth of those will actually need surgery to deal with it, and sometimes that involves taking the implant and the capsule out and putting a new implant in."
Mr David Floyd, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the Royal Free Hopsital
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How Long Do Breast Implants Last?
Breast implants are designed to last between ten and twenty five years. The reason that it is so difficult to put an exact life of any particular breast implant is that there are so many variables at work. Breast implant rupture is a common reason for breast implants being replaced prematurely and this can be due to poor surgical outcome or the under filling of implants. It may even be related to the lifestyle of the woman fitted with implants as the more physical activity in the chest area, the greater chance of the implants wearing out or becoming ruptured. Textured breast implants are designed to reduce capsular contracture or tightness and they are reported to do that effectively, however they are reported to rupture sooner than smooth implants. It should be noted that this rupturing is only in a very small percentage of cases and should not be the deciding factor on which breast implant to choose.
Watch Mr David Floyd, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital, provide more information on how long breast implants last:
"Implants don’t last forever, the current generation of silicone implants we have probably last about ten years. At some point, the shell of the implant will rupture, and then the shape of the implant collapses. Mostly it’s contained within the scar capsule that the body has made around the implant so the silicone gel is all contained, but it distorts the shape, sometimes it’s uncomfortable and patients don’t like the feel of it.
Often if we think that’s happened, we will get an ultrasound scan and if the ultrasound scan says the implant is ruptured then we’ll recommend more surgery to take the implant out and place a new implant. Every patient having breast augmentation has to face that complication because if you have your implants for long enough they will rupture eventually."
Mr David Floyd, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital
Do Breast Implants Need Routine Replacement?
According to many plastic surgeons, there is no need to replace breast implants just because they are old. If the breast implants are intact then they can remain in place. Even leaking saline implants are reported to cause no actual harm as the saline is usually absorbed by the body and safely filtered away. Saline-filled breast implants will shrink when they leak so the woman would be aware of the leakage but silicone gel implants tend not to shrink when they leak. It is suggested that silicone gel implants be checked on a regular basis.
What Happens If My Implants Rupture?
Over time, it is possible that your breast implants could rupture. This could happen for a couple of reasons; you may experience capsular contracture, during which the scar tissue tightens around the implant, or you could experience a trauma that could cause them to burst. Despite differences in texture and shell material, both saline and silicone implants are at risk of rupturing. You may experience what is termed a silent rupture, which means you are unaware that anything has happened, as the silicon remains trapped in the fibrous tissue that forms around the implant. In other cases, symptoms can present themselves to alert you of a ruptured implant, and these include lumps and swelling, tenderness to the touch and general pain, redness, along with deflation and a change of shape.
If you suspect that you have ruptured an implant, consult your surgeon or your GP immediately. They will be able to arrange either an MRI or ultrasound scan to confirm if you have indeed suffered a rupture. If this is indeed the case, you may have to undergo breast revision surgery to put things right. Through this procedure, your surgeon will make an incision through your existing scar, remove the ruptured silicone, remove any excess scar tissue, and insert a new implant.
The Removal and Replacement Process
If there is a rupture or any other complication, it may be deemed necessary for you to undergo breast revision surgery. Along with many other reasons, this surgical procedure is often used to replace old silicone implants with more modern, commonplace saline implants. It is natural that all breast implants will need to be replaced in time, and while some may prefer newer silicon options, saline is often the preferred choice by surgeons today. You may wish to have preventative removal and replacement surgery, or you can wait until you notice signs that your implants have ruptured or the breasts are not looking to your liking before you make an appointment – the choice is yours.
Breast revision surgery takes a similar format to the initial breast implant procedure. You have the option during your surgery to have replacement implants put in, for which the recovery time and length of the results will be the same as when you first received implants. However, if you wish to remove your implants altogether and forgo any replacements, you may enjoy a more rapid recovery. Whether you remove and replace or simply remove is a question of personal choice and one you should discuss with your cosmetic surgeon.