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I have had breast implants for 14 years. How Long Do Breast Implants Last?

I have had breast implants for 14 years and I am now developing a large rash under my left breast, and it hurts and I feel alot of air pockets. One doctor told me to replace them every 10 years and another told me you never have to replace them

Doctor Answers (167)

Breast Augmentation: Can Breast Implants Last a Lifetime?

+15
While breast implants do have the possibility of lasting a lifetime, the implant manufacturers do not consider them 'lifetime devices' as the possibility exists that over time the outer shell will fail. Saline breast implant failure is quite obvious when it occurs, for when a saline implant leaks, the saline solution is quickly absorbed by the body and the 'deflated' side immediately looks smaller than the intact side.

Several large studies have shown saline implant deflation rates of around 1% at 1 year and 3% at 3 years. If this rate of saline implant failure holds true over time, one can expect that 1 out of 10 (10%) patients can expect a deflation in the first 10 years following augmentation. My own experience with saline implant deflation has been less than that: in 6 years of practice in North Carolina I have had only one patient (out of more than 300 patients with 600 saline breast implants) return with a deflation. It is certainly possible that some patients who moved out of the area experienced deflation and did not return to this practice for implant replacement, however we have asked the implant manufacturer to notify us in the event that this happens and thus far we have received no report of additional saline implant failures.
Silicone gel implant failure is a somewhat different issue, as implant rupture can not be detected by looking at or feeling the augmented breast. The gel material is inert and is not absorbed by the body, so the appearance and feel of the implant does not change following rupture of the outer shell. In order to detect a gel implant rupture, a radiologic study, such as an MRI, is required. For that reason, the FDA has recommended that women receiving the recently approved cohesive gel implants obtain breast implant MRI scans at intervals following augmentation.
One study including over 500 patients has shown a gel implant rupture rate of 0.5% at 3 years among those patients who had had a postoperative MRI scan, so the failure rate for the new cohesive gel implants appears to be no greater than what we have seen with saline implants, and may in fact be somewhat lower.

It is worth noting that the material which is used to manufacture the outer shell of saline and silicone gel breast implants is the same, so varying failure rates between the two types of implants probably has to do with differences in the way that the substance that fills them affects the outer shell. I think that it is also important to stress that if a woman's breast implants have not deflated (saline) or ruptured (silicone gel), there is no need to remove and replace either kind of implant merely because a certain amount of time has passed since the augmentation surgery.


Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

How long do breast implant last?

+10

Most breast implants will last a lifetime. 

There is a common misconception that implants will only last 10 years. This is not true. If you have no problem with your implant then nothing needs to be done with them. The only reason you would change an implant is if there is a problem with them. The most common long term problem is implant rupture. The risk of a rupture is 1% a year. So the risk of having a broken implant at the end of 10 years is 10%. That means that 90 % of implants will be fine at 10 years. The other common misconception is that saline implants are more likely to rupture than gel. This is not true. The rupture rate is the same for saline and cohesive gel implants because the outer shell of both type of  implants are virtually the same .

So most women will live their whole lives with their original implants and will never require additional surgery.

Frank Lista, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 41 reviews

How Long Breast Implants Last.

+8

Thank you for your question. There is a great deal of confusion about the longevity of Breast Implants.

Many Plastic Surgeons recommend replacement of Silicone Gel Implants after 10-15 years.

However, most agree today that if your Breast Implants are intact and you do not have problems such as Capsular Contracture or Implant Rupture, there is no need to remove Breast Implants that are intact and that you are happy with.

The problem is that rupture of Silicone Gel Breast Implants is hard to detect. That is why the FDA recommends an MRI to check Breast Implant Integrity every 2-3 years.

My personal view is that if your Breast Implants are soft, normal looking and there is no MRI indication of rupture, I recommend not removing them.

However, your rash may be caused by the pressure of the breast overhanging the upper abdominal skin and this may be a reason to remove them or have a Breast Lift to elevate the overhanging tissue. See your Plastic Surgeon for an exam and advice.

 

Brooke R. Seckel, MD, FACS
Boston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Breast implant exchange myth

+7
There is no time limit as to when or if you need to exchange your breast implants. I have heard from patients that they have heard that breast implants need to be changed every 10 years. The only reason you need to exchange your breast implants is if you are having a problem with them or if you'd like to change the size.
Some of the potential complications that may arise would be deflation, capsular contracture, bottoming out, or just size change. If you are happy with the size of your breast implants and are having no problems, you don't need to do anything.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 680 reviews

Breast implant replacement

+6

There is no expiration date for breast implants, and I have seen patients that have had breast implants trouble-free for as many as 30 years. Nonetheless most breast implants are not lifetime devices, and I tell my patients that we hope that their implants will last approximately 15 years on average. As people’s bodies change over time they sometimes request other breast operations, including those to change the size of their implants or lift their breasts.

John K. Wakelin III, MD
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

There is No Expiration Date!

+6

Breast implants are not like cartons of milk, there is no expiration date. Implants do fail in time, as they are man made devices and all eventaully will.

Saline and gel devices have individual rates of failure and to make it easy average around 1% per year. This means in 20 years there is a 20% , or 1 in 5 chance of failure. At 50 years, there is a 50% chance. So just determine the odds. There is no date to change the implants, if they fail, change them.

For saline devices it is easy to know when they fail, they will deflate. Gel devices are not as easy to detect and an MRI is the best way to determine this. Patients can consider getting an MRI 7 to 10 years after augmentation to see if there is implant failure.

If you are pleased with you result, do not worry about changing implants unless there is device failure!

Michael S. Beckenstein, MD
Birmingham Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Usually 10-15 years

+5

Patients who see their doctors annually have their implants in an average of 10-15 years. However, that doesn't mean they need to be replaced during that interval; many patients have their implants even longer and are problem-free. However when problems such as the ones described here come up, it is imperative to see your doctor to have an examination.

Brent Moelleken, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 90 reviews

How Long Do Breast Implants Last?

+4

 

Breast implants can last a lifetime, but unfortunately there is no way to predict how long any particular one will last.  We know from experience that current silicone gel implants are much more durable than ones placed twenty years ago.

When saline implants leak, you will usually know fairly soon that there is a leak because the breast will start to get smaller.   Over a five-year study period in my practice, the deflation rate for saline implants was 0.4% per implant or 0.8% per patient/per year. This is in general accordance with the literature. To achieve these rates, it is known that saline implants should not be underinflated. For example, a 300 cc saline implant should not be filled to less than 300 cc.  If it is, the deflation rate greatly increases. In practice, I usually fill saline implants about 10% above the nominal size. This keeps the shell from folding, decreasing the risk of shell-fold failure.  It also makes a saline implant smoother and not so likely to feel ripply through thin skin.


The leakage rate for gel implants seems lower, with the Mentor core study showing a 0.5% rupture rate at 3 years.  For re-augmentation patients, the rate was 7.7%. It was noted that the main reason for re-operation was capsular contracture.  The core study found a capsular contracture rate of 18.9% over a 3- year period. Capsular contracture prevention is obviously a very worthy goal, but the exact cause of contracture is not known.  Current theories point more and more to the colonization of the implant surface by bacteria that are found in breast tissue or on the skin. These bacteria protect themselves by forming a biological shield known as a biofilm. This film prevents the immune system's white cells from fighting the bacteria.  These bacteria are also resistant to commonly used antibiotics.


The use of an antibiotic and betadine solution to irrigate the pocket during surgery helps greatly to reduce the incidence of capsular contracture. The use after surgery of antibiotics effective against the particular organisms implicated in capsular contracture has also been advocated. A "no-touch" technique during implant placement means that the surgeon uses new powder-free gloves and touches nothing but the implant during insertion.  This decreases the risk of getting bacteria on the implants. The use of the new Keller funnel allows placement of silicone-gel implants through a smaller incision without trauma to the implant as well as maintaining a "no-touch" technique.

Finally, a meticulous dissection with monopolar forceps cautery under direct visualization as introduced by Dr. John Tebbets of Dallas, and used in my practice for years, allows pocket dissection without any bleeding. Case studies have shown that having little or no blood in the pocket also correlates with a reduced contracture rate.  I and others using similar techniques have noted capsular contracture rates for both saline and gel implants between 1-1.5% over a three to five year period.


The FDA ensures that women having breast augmentation are informed that implants are "not lifetime devices" and that re-operation with or without implant replacement "will be likely" during your lifetime. There is, however, no recommendation based on any studies that implants should be changed at any particular time interval, such as 10 or 15 years.  If a woman is having no problems with her implants, then there is no reason to re-operate simply to change them.


To monitor your gel implants, an MRI is recommended periodically, since it can be difficult to know if a gel implant has ruptured by physical observation or examination. The treatment for a deflated saline implant or a "silent rupture" of a gel implant is to replace the implant.  The replacement operation does not have the same recovery period as the initial placement, since the pocket is already formed.  However, if years have passed since the initial operation and skin has stretched, or if a larger implant is desired, additional surgery on the skin envelope or breast pocket may be needed.

Robert M. Lowen, MD
Mountain View Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Generally there is no expiration date.

+4

As most of the other doctors have mentioned -

Implants do not necessarily need to be changed out at any interval. The numbers you hear people talk about are based on averages of people that have had the implants replaced.

The most often cited number is (again... on average) every 10-15 years people will need an additional operation for their breast augmentation. Now that number is based on surgeries for all reasons - ruptured implants, want larger implants, have capsular contracture, just don't want the implants in anymore.

In addition that 10-15 year number is based on the older implant shells. The new formulations are more resistant to rupture and as the science of how to avoid capsular contracture gets better you will probably see that number increase.

In your situation however, it is never normal to feel air pockets or have redness associated with your implants and you should see a board certified plastic surgeon today. If you can't get to your plastic surgeon you should probably go to the emergency room. The situation you are describing is possibly that serious.

Steven H. Williams, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.