Life After Breast Augmentation: How Frequently to Visit the Plastic Surgeon
Jager Weatherby on 18 Sep 2014 at 4:00pm
The breast augmentation journey doesn’t end at surgery. There are a lot of questions that arise after the it’s all said and done. Questions like: How long do implants last? Will they rupture? How frequently should a patient revisit their doctor? What it comes down to is simple: Protect big investments.
In an effort to get answers to all of these queries, RealSelf caught up with Nashville plastic surgeon Dr. Melinda Haws to find out what should really be done after surgery.
One of the most common questions I get when I see a breast augmentation patient for the first time is “How long do they last?” The short answer is this: With the implants currently available, there is no expiration date. A consumer is sure to find a lot of information on the internet about replacing implants every 10 to 15 years, but there’s no real data to support that stance with most of the modern models. I frequently use this motto: “If the implants don’t bother you, then don’t bother them.”
That being said, there are some specific older silicone implants that do have a higher rupture rate and warrant exchange sooner rather than later. For the most part, however, if your breast is soft and supple with no change in the look or feel of the implant, then there’s no medical reason to change it out.
The most recent data shows that 25% of women who undergo breast augmentation will undergo a secondary breast procedure in the first 10 years following the surgery. This includes upsizing, downsizing, or removing the implants, as well as procedures to lift the breasts or correct complications such as ruptures, hematomas, or capsular contractures.
It's important to remember that as a breast augmentation patient you will continue to care about the appearance of breasts throughout your life. As your body changes due to age, pregnancy, and weight fluctuations, your breasts will also change. Certainly the subset of the population that gets implants are going to care about those changes and may want to correct them.
I like to think of breast augmentation as entering into a special breast maintenance relationship with your plastic surgeon. It starts with selecting the implants for augmentation and continues throughout your life. The immediate follow-up after your procedure involves your surgeon monitoring your healing and making sure that everything settles out to the size and shape you expected.
It takes three to six months to complete the initial healing phase. At that point, your surgeon will confirm that the swelling has resolved and that you’re seeing your final result. You may think that’s where the relationship ends, but that is not the case. Your surgeon will want to see you back at one year out from your initial augmentation and every year thereafter. Not everyone makes all these appointments, but the point is that your doctor wants to maintain a relationship with you so that if anything does change in your breasts, she or he will be your first stop.
I can't tell you how many of my former augmentation patients finally get back to me because of a "breast lump" that has been worked on with scans and X-rays only to find out from me that the "lump" is merely the edge or the valve of the implant. Your plastic surgeon can save you a great deal of unnecessary anxiety by cutting to the chase and evaluating what is or isn’t the implant. If there’s a problem with your breast that we deem not to be the implant, we can advise on how best steps to take to evaluate your situation. In addition, maintaining a relationship with your plastic surgeon also means we can keep you informed of any changes in long-term expectations of your particular implants.
Bottom line: Breast implants require check-ups with your surgeon, ideally every year so we can evaluate their integrity and your result. If you decide not to keep your yearly appointment, I recommend you visit at least every three to five years and any time you notice a change.
While there’s no expiration date on the implants, they’re not necessarily a lifetime device. Your plastic surgeon can help keep your breasts the best throughout your life.
Dr. Melinda Haws is a plastic surgeon based in Nashville, Tennessee. Learn more at ThePlasticSurgeryCenterofNashville.com.