What is the procedure for replacing implants? I have had my saline implants for over 15 yrs. How long is the expected time period before you need to replace them? Is the procedure more painful or difficult than the original implant? I have a lot of rippling, even though I went under the muscle. My bags are textured, I believe. I also think that they may have loss some of their initial volume. Can you describe the average "life" of an implant, the replacement procedure and any new advancements in the last year or two? Thank you
What is the Average "Life" of a Breast Implant?
Doctor Answers 42
Life of breast implants
Your implants expire when you have a reason to have them removed and/or replaced. Reasons include leaking and hardening. The most common reason I remove implants, however, 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. You would likely do better as far as rippling is concerned with smooth gels and they should last you until - well, you decide they are expired! I see ladies in my office with "old implants" who come in for something else, say a facelift. If they are doing fine with their implants, there is no reason to remove or replace them.
Lisa Lynn Sowder, M.D.
Breast implants last 10 to 15 years on average
I tell my patients that the life of an implant is about 10 to 15 years, depending on different factors. The largest of these factors is if they get a capsular contracture or not. I can't remember an implant rupturing in my practice within 10 years without a capsular contracture.
The ones that do not get a capsular contracture last much longer, as there is no fold failure in the wall from the scar being smaller than the implant causing it to have a fold in the envelope of the implant.
I have had a patient who has had her saline implants for over 30 years without a rupture, as they are soft as can be. I tell patients that this is the best reason to contunue doing their displacement excercises, to keep their implants soft and mobile so that they do not get a fold failure. Of course, with saline implants, you will know when it breaks, as you will go flat.
With silicone implants, you may see the rupture with a mammogram frequently. Even if you have not seen your silicone implants rupture by 15 years, it is, in my opinion, time to exchange them, as the complications associated with the rupture can be worsened by waiting (the largest reason for a late capsular contracture is a ruptured implant).
Rippling is more common in textured implants and in saline implants. You would enjoy the aesthetics of switching to a silicone implant for the feel and decrease in the ripple effects. The pain with replacing your implants will be at most 1/4th of the original surgery, if your implants are soft. You can go back through the original incision that the implants were placed through without trouble.
You may need to go bigger a bit, as the saline implant weighs more than the silicone implant of the same number (they do not weigh the shell as part of the size in saline, where they do in the silicone--so silicone weighs 30 grams less for a "400" implant).
You should go and have a consultation with a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon that is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, as they have a special interest in aesthetic surgery, and do a majority of their work in aesthetic surgery and are Board Certified.
Implants aren't usually replaced, unless necessary
There are a lot of different statistics regarding implant service life, and the lifespan varies depending on saline/silicone/round/teardrop/smooth/textured, etc.
I have found that round, smooth, saline filled implants last an average of 14 years. This is NOT absolute fact, just observation and from reading. Of course, some will last way longer, and I have seen some crap out after a few days or weeks, due to manufacturing defect. In any event, it is safe to say that if you are happy with the implants, and they are giving you no problem, then leave them in. There is no need to change them routinely, like you would do with the oil in your vehicle. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
A secondary or revision breast augmentation is generally much less painful, and the recovery in general is easier than the original operation. The rippling may be due to the implant or the capsule, or a combination. If the capsule has scar tissue bands, these can be weakened or eliminated during surgery, and this may add some discomfort, but nothing compared to creating the pocket under the muscle.
Textured implants allow for tissue ingrowth and when they change shape or position due to changes in the body position, these can cause surface ripples due to the traction that the implant surfaces places on the breast surface through the ingrown tissue (traction ripple). To minimize chances of ripples again, I suggest a smooth surface, round shaped, silicone filled gel implant placed under the muscle. At this time, the pocket/capsule should be visually and manually checked to ensure that there are no bands or constrictions that could create ripples.
Your perceived loss of implant volume is unlikely (though unless you have complete deflation). It is more likely that you are losing some breast volume as a result of your life cycle. When you get your replacement implants, you may want to explore getting larger ones to make up for the loss of volume.
Hope this helps.
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When you’re unhappy, that’s when it’s time for implant revision.
BREAST PROSTHESIS / IMPLANT LIFESPAN IS ON AVERAGE AT 10 YEARS
The procedure for replacing implants is much easier than the initial augmentation in the majority of cases.
The implant manufacturers state that the implants should be replaced every ten years.
The reality is that the implants should be changed when:
- you decide you want a change (increase or decrease volume, behind or in front of the muscle, saline for silicone etc......) or
- there is a problem with the implant (deflation, rupture, rippling, capsule formation etc....).
There is no reason to remove or replace them if there is no medical reason and your are pleased with your breasts.
Dr. Carlos Cordoba
MDCM, CSPQ, FRCS, FACS
Plastic & Esthetic Surgeon
4055 Ste-Catherine O. Suite 100
Montreal, QC. Canada H3Z 3J8
New advances in breast implants
I agree I with some of the advice from the other surgeons; the average life span of a saline implant is about 10-15 years. However, if your implant has lost volume, it is leaking and should be replaced no matter its age.
The most recent advance in breast implant technology is a new device called "Ideal Implant" which is currently going through and FDA trial. It is a saline implant which was designed with an internal baffling system with the intent of decreasing implant rippling as well as internal movement of the saline. The manufacturer describes it as a HYBRID implant, because it is filled with saline only, but has a look and feel that is closer to a silicone implant than any saline implant that I have ever seen. So far, all of my patients that have them in are very pleased.
Sounds like your implants are ok
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. Rippling is an unfortunate consequence of saline filled implants, especially textured ones. If it is a straightforward replacement that you require, the procedure should be a simple one. Also, if your original implants were placed from the axilla (armpit) you may need a different incision. Good luck!
Replacing older implants
Beauty advice: You have a few different choices such as when to replace and what to use for the replacement.
With saline filled implants I would recommend you wait until you have a deflation (which you'll easily see) or another problem (if the rippling bothers you enough, etc.). With saline implants, the removal and replacement is relatively easy. The new implant is placed in the old space, with little modification. You do not experience much discomfort compared to initial augmentation, since the space is already there. New smooth saline implants with more filled shells (like the Mentor moderate plus or Natrelle high profile) are less likely to ripple, but possible more so than new gel implants. This also depends on your skin, fat & breast tissue.
With gel implants I would have recommended removal before leakage symptoms develop, either based on their age or based on abnormalities on an MRI study. Such studies are recommended by the FDA on a routine basis for new gel filled implants. In some patients, gel leakage outside the implant shell is associated with capsule hardening or extracapsular silicon granuloma masses (scar lumps) within the breast tissue. Removal of these is much more extensive than initial augmentation. Removal of the entire capsule around a leaking gel implant is desirable, and again is more extensive surgery than initial augmentation.
When you choose your next set of implants, you need to consider that they may need to be replaced in the future.
As far as the average life of the implants, the manufacturers data, submitted to the FDA during the approval process does not provide an answer to that question. I do not know the answer.
It sounds like you have had a good result from your initial surgery. I hope that when you decide to have them replaced, you get as much satisfaction from the future surgery.
Saline implants' lives end when they deflate
With saline implants, leakage or deflation signals the end of their useful lifespan. If the implants do not deflate then they are good until they no longer serve you well (i.e the rippling is too obvious, the size is not acceptable, the shape or position is not agreeable).
Replacement after 15 years can be as simple as opening up the capsule, separating the implants from the capsule and replacing the implants with a different implant. Or, it can be very involved if the position of the implant is not acceptable relative to your normal breast tissue, if the size is significantly different than what is desireable, if the overlying breast tissue and skin is sagging or misshapened, etc. Each case must be analyzed on its individual characteristics.
There are few very significant revolutionary changes over the past 15 years. The concept of augmentation has shifted from one of pure volume to one of dimensions. There are probably more implant options as far as styles and sizes or dimensions are concerned allow a better match to your particular needs. However, the issues with side effects and risks of saline implants are unchanged.
Average implant life span is 10-15 years
The general life span we use is 10-15 years. These numbers came from studies showing that breast implants start to have micro-ruptures and could start leaking around that time. I tell all my patients that it is prudent to exchange them but they do not have to do that except with problems.
In your case, it seems that you have rippling as well. The best answer is to replace your implant with a gel implant. This procedure is much easier compared to the first implantation. Good Luck!
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.