Why Get Implants Considering All the Risks of Having Complications?

I was interested in implants for my deflated post-baby breasts. I researched it and found many risks, high re-operation and complication rates. The cost of re-operation and MRIs is not covered by insurance and implants can delay breast cancer detection on a mammogram. So my question to doctors is, what the heck? How is it possible that millions of women go for it? I know there has to be something reassuring about implants otherwise it wouldn't be such a common thing! help me out guys!

Doctor Answers 8

Why Get Implants Considering the Risks of Having Complications?

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This is a fantastic question. Many women choose to have breast augmentation because the satisfaction rate is very high and the risks are relatively low. 

To address your points:

  1. Many risks: Every medical treatment has a long list of risks. A list of potential risks does not mean something will go wrong. It is important to understand that breast augmentation is a real procedure with risks. These risks can be minimized if you and your surgeon make good decisions when planning your operation. For example, pick an implant size that your body can handle-- don't go too big.
  2. High reoperation rates: Implants are not designed to last forever. I tell all of my patients that they will probably need new implants at some point in their lives. We cannot prevent implants from rupturing, but we can reduce reoperation rates by doing things that minimize other reasons for reoperation. For example, antibiotic irrigation during surgery has been shown to reduce capsular contracture rates. Additionally, our bodies get worse as we age, not better. If you want to keep a result looking as good as possible in the long term, revision procedures will likely be necessary.
  3. Complication rates: A board certified plastic surgeon is your best bet for finding a surgeon who is specifically trained to do plastic surgery. Getting consistent, long lasting results in breast augmentation takes a lot of expertise. A good plastic surgeon can tell you all of the things they are doing to reduce your risk of specific complications. As a patient, there are things you can do to reduce or increase your risk of complications. Be proactive about learning what you can do to reduce your risk of complications.
  4. Breast cancer: There is the possibility of delayed diagnosis of breast cancer with breast implants; however, this risk is low. In fact, survival rates for women with breast cancer are equivalent when comparing women with implants and women without implants. The stage at diagnosis is also equivalent. This data demonstrates that you are not more likely to die from breast cancer if you get breast implants.
  5. MRIs: These are recommended every other year, not required, for patients with silicone gel implants starting 3 years after their procedure. The purpose is to look for signs of a rupture that you cannot detect from the outside. This expense is not covered by insurance. 

Choosing to have cosmetic surgery is a decision you should not take lightly. Make sure you choose a board certified plastic surgeon who is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons to help you through the process of deciding what is the best option for you.

Patients Love Breast Implants

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The overwhelming majority of patients love having breast implants.You are correct that it is reasonable to expect to have another surgery at some point. Breast implant surgery has extremely high satisfaction rates despite your concerns. Breast implants build your confidence, clothes fit better, and patients say they feel more feminine. Be sure that you pick your doctor carefully though because it matters who does your surgery to get the best outcome.

Most Risks Shared By Gel & Saline Implants

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Most of the risks that you mentioned (re-operation rate and interference with mammography) are borne by both saline and silicone gel implants, although the recommendation for MRIs is unique to gels.  As with any elective surgical procedure, you must weigh the benefits vs risks.

John Whitt, MD (retired)
Louisville Plastic Surgeon

Breasts Augmentation Despite All the Risks?

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Thank you for the excellent question.

You are absolutely correct in that breast augmentation surgery carries the potential for significant risk/complications. You are also correct in that the vast majority of patients who undergo this procedure will end up having further surgery in their lifetimes ( breast augmentation revisionary surgery).

 On the other hand, the majority of patients who undergo this procedure  are happy that they did so despite the concerns that you have correctly mentioned. I think this is the case because patients enjoy the “benefits” of breast augmentation surgery on a daily basis. For example, patients feel more comfortable and confident wearing a variety of clothes  once they have  undergone the procedure ( for example for treatment of “deflated post-baby breast”). Many patients also report more “confidence” in their relationships/intimacy.

It is interesting, that some patients elect to have their breast implants removed once they have undergone breast augmentation surgery. However, a much greater percentage of patients will elect to undergo further surgery to “keep” their breast implants despite having significant complications such as deflation, leakage, encapsulation, breast implant displacement etc.

 Again, I think that you are wise in considering the significant downsides of placing foreign  bodies on the chest wall.  Hopefully, the millions of patients who undergo these procedures are also considering the pros/cons carefully and understand that  breast augmentation is not necessarily a complication free and/or one-time operation.

 I hope this helps.

Implant safety

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You are correct, breast augmentation surgery like all surgeries has many potential risks such as bleeding, infection, malposition, capsular contracture, need for reoperation and many others. Fortunately, these are all rare. If they were common, we would not offer the operation and women would not choose to undergo the operation.

You are correct, reoperations and MRI's are mostly not covered by insurance or manufacturers warranties and women should be aware of this before undergoing breast augmentation. All breast implants will eventually leak (if the patient lives long enough) and need to be replaced with another reoperation.

You are correct that there is a statistical difference in the time of diagnosis of breast cancer in women with breast implants compared to no implants, however there is no difference in breast cancer outcomes between women with and without implants - meaning breast cancer patients with breast implants do just as well as women without implants. Rest assured that breast implants would not be available if they hindered breast cancer survival.

Armin Moshyedi, MD
Bethesda Plastic Surgeon

Risk of Breast Implants

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Breast Implants are placed behind your breast tissue, so having a mammagram can be easier.  That is not a problem.  In rare cases, a patient can develope scar contractures around one or both breast.  In my practice, we do not see that very often.  If you decide to have Breast Augmentation, be sure to consult with a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, certified by the American Society of Plastic Surgeon (ASPS) to discuss your concerns and expectations.  Be well informed.

Robert E. Zaworski, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

Implants and Risks

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   Implant complication rates are less than 1% in my practice.  Reoperation rates for capsular contracture and rupture constitute about 5%, but this occurs over a number of years.  Kenneth Hughes, MD breast implants Los Angeles, CA


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Implants are not the right thing for all women. The number of women having this surgery supports its benefits 

Norman Bakshandeh, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon

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.