How Long Will My Implants Last?
4 Min Read
There is a very common misconception held by many and fueled by stories, opinions, and recommendations by faux experts online that breast implants must be replaced every 10 years. While it is true that some implants, especially saline ones, may last only ten years or even less, the vast majority of breast implants remain intact for well in excess of this period of time. In fact, many will last twenty or thirty years or more. This is particularly true for the most recent generations of silicone breast implants.
Of course, the other side of this coin is that breast implants are not permanent devices that will last forever. At some point, they will either need to be replaced or removed – a process known as breast revision surgery.
What Complications Require Replacement?
When one truly thinks about it, implants are quite remarkable devices. The fact that they can endure frequent and variable forces with some being quite extreme, trauma, relentless motion all while being exposed to and immersed in tissue fluids, enzymes, etc. and doing so year after year is quite amazing. Nevertheless, they are not immune from wear-and-tear, so, at some point, they will lose their integrity and break down or leak.
There are also other causes of their loss of integrity, such as penetrating trauma, self-induced implant puncture (it is a real thing!), and even accidental perforation during diagnostic or surgical procedures.
Finally, though not common, there can be implant defects predisposing some to weakness and earlier break down or deflation. This is more commonly seen with saline implants.
What Causes Implants to Break Down or Rupture?
Implants are durable and can withstand an enormous amount of pressure. However, they can still experience wear-and-tear and damage. While implants will not be damaged by normal day-to-day pressure, sudden trauma such as a car accident can puncture or damage the implant shell. Additional complications can arise during medical procedures such as a biopsy on the breast should the needle pierce the shell.
Even though implant damage commonly happens after the implants are already in the breast, damage can also occur during the augmentation procedure. If your surgeon is not careful, the surgical tools used during the operation are strong enough to weaken and damage the implant.
Implant damage may have nothing to do with the surgeon or with your actions. Sometimes, an implant is faulty. Unfortunately, there is not much that you can do to prevent a problem.
Will Silicone Implants Last Longer Than Saline?
Silicone implants are made of a thick, viscous gel, which also serves as a lubricant to the silicone shell and provides a smooth interface and some support. Saline, which is saltwater, doesn’t possess these characteristics so the interface is sharper and with little support. That is why it is infinitely more common to see rippling and feel the implant edges with saline implants as opposed to silicone.
What Complications Require Replacement?
The most common complications that require implant removal and replacement are implant rupture and capsular contracture. Implant rupture occurs when the silicone shell of the implant wears down naturally or experiences trauma that causes it to weaken and tear, allowing the inner contents to escape into the body. Capsular contracture develops when the tissue capsule that has formed around the implant thickens and tightens, causing pain and aesthetic distortion.
How Is Breast Revision Performed?
When an implant is ruptured or deflated, it is usually recommended that a breast revision procedure be performed. This could simply involve the permanent removal of the implants (known as explantation) along with any surrounding free silicone, if present. A majority of women, however, do choose to have new implants placed at the same time (known as implant exchange). Sometimes, there are indications to remove the scar tissue surrounding the implant (capsule) at the same time using a procedure known as a capsulectomy.
This removal of the capsule can be either partial or complete (total). For the total capsulectomy, there is a special technique called the “en bloc” approach whereby the implant and the capsule are removed as an intact unit. This may be indicated in certain situations or just requested by patients for a variety of reasons.
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