True or False: Breast Implants Only Last 10 Years

EliseR on 22 Jun 2011 at 2:00pm

If you've ever considered breast implants, or known someone who has, it's likely you've heard the discouraging "fact" that implants must be replaced every 10 years. But according to many board-certified plastic surgeons, this is not the case.

Implants last an average of 10-15 years. This is an average. So, some will fail at 5 years and some will fail at 25 or 30 years,” says Manhattan plastic surgeon Dr. Kenneth Francis.

An implant “fails” by developing a leak, usually caused by “fold fatigue” (when the folds of an implant rub against each other, weakening the implant walls). In a saline implant, a leak results in the body safely absorbing the saline, allowing the implant to deflate and the breast to flatten.  A leakage within a silicone gel implant can be more difficult to detect, as the implant does not lose volume. Instead, the silicone surrounds the outside of the implant, resulting in breast firmness, tenderness, and possibly calcium deposits.

Victoria Selvstedt rippling implant

While any implant can develop a leak, some are more susceptible than others.

“Textured implants have shorter lives and higher leak rates.” Says Memphis plastic surgeon Dr. Peter Aldea. “Similarly, saline implants, which have a valve through which the saline is placed, have a potential weak area making them more vulnerable than gel implants [which have] no potential weak points.”

Some plastic surgeons do recommend replacement surgery every ten to fifteen years to prevent failure of silicone gel implants. But with saline implants, most plastic surgeons follow an ancient rule of thumb: If it aint broke, don’t fix it.

Implant failure is a contributing reason patients replace their implants, but it’s not the main reason.  Many patients opt to replace implants that have stood the test of time like champions.

The most common reason I remove implants is that the patient has had a change in her body or life circumstances or wants to upgrade to gel implants or wants a different size of implants,“ says Seattle plastic surgeon, Dr. Lisa Sowder.

Our conclusion? Think of an implant like you would a car; you could get a lemon that tanks out half way through your first cross country road trip, or you could end up with a modern day VW Bug that just keeps going.  Perhaps your old, reliable Honda gets you where you need to go, but you’re still itching to trade it in for the new BMW.

Over 50 answers to the question "How Long to Breast Implants Last?" 

breast implant before and after photos

Photo credits: Dr. Richard Wassermann;