Your Implants Should Last Forever!

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Your implants should last forever! Back in the 1970s, this is what most patients were told. Looking back (with the benefit of retrospection), we know that this no longer accurate for most people. Implants can can leak, become hardened, or create an unnatural appearance. Your body can also change; implant size or appearance may no longer flatter your body shape.

Currently we estimate an average 10 year lifespan for implants, whether they are filled with saline or silicone gel. This means that most people will need some type of revision at around 10 years after surgery; some need it earlier and some later. This can be due to leaking or hardened implants, or due to incompatibility based on comfort or appearance. For most women, their body shape also changes in the span of a decade, and implants are either too big or too small to match the changes. For some women, their priorities have changed since the implants were placed, and they want to adjust the size.

Research shows a leakage/rupture rate of about 10-15 % for implant at 10 years. Leaking implants are often detected by mammogram, MRI, or clinical exam; however, none of those methods are 100% accurate! Why do implants leak? Many leak due to wear and tear, most commonly from a fold created by its position in the body. They can also leak from excessive force, such as a car accident. Typically the force used during a mammogram is not enough to rupture a “healthy” implant, but can certainly complete the leak or break in an already weakened implant.

Hardening of implants, otherwise known as capsular contracture, can often occur and create an unnatural appearance or even discomfort. There are different degrees of contracture; this can often be treated by changing the location of the implants in the body or adding an artificial graft to create “fresh tissue” for the implant to be placed within. The hardened tissue is removed at the same time the old implant is removed. Methods for treating this problem have continued to improve. In fact, new implants now come with a warranty for severe cases of capsular contracture, in addition to the standard coverage for leakage.

Most surgeons do not recommend changing implants just because they are 10 years old. It is however, a simpler surgery to change the implants before they leak, rather than after they leak. Whether or not this is worth the expense and recovery time of surgery is up to debate. Most people will wait until they have a problem with an implant prior to considering a surgical procedure (aka revision) to fix it. This can be due to implant leakage, or for appearance or pain reasons.

A revision can mean anything—implant exchange, breast lift (mastopexy), or any other adjustments to a breast that has already been operated on. This is typically customized to each person, and their needs. If you are unsure about what you might need, or have some concerns, come in for a consultation so you know your options. If you have information regarding your current implants, it helps quite a bit in planning and counseling you regarding any future procedures you may consider.
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Orlando Plastic Surgeon