What's Your Breast Implant "Return Policy"?

Are breast implants designed to last forever, or do the implant companies provide a guideline for the length of time that a pair of breast implants should last?
What are the most common causes of implant failure and what unusual causes for failure have you seen?
Do patients ever try to "return" breast implants? What is the policy for such situations?

Doctor Answers 5

Never had a patient try to return her breast implants

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I have not yet had a patient try to return her breast implants. Occasionally patients want them larger after surgery. Most often with time this desire fades away. As far as how long they last: I usually tell patients they tend to rupture (saline filled implants) at 10-15 years, but individual wear varies. Larger implants seem to rupture earlier than smaller ones.

Silicone implants are another question as they do not show easy detectable signs when they rupture. They more likely have scar formation when they rupture or leak and we operate to correct that. Silicone implants probably last longer than saline implants.

Orange Plastic Surgeon

For your story, the manufacturers would be the best resource

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Eva S:

Our typical per-op discussion includes discussion of the longevity of breast implants. Simply put, they are high tech plastic bags, which move with your movements throughout each day. It should be no surprise that they may wear out eventually.

Factual information and statistics for your proposed article will best come from the implant manufacturers (Mentor / J&J, Natrelle / Allergan).

Saline implant deflation is easy to diagnose and more simple to treat. Detection of gel implant leakage may require imaging studies (MRI) and may be treated with capsulectomy. New implants are used in both situations.

The concept you mention of "returning implants" is not relevant to the patient's situation. A patient dosen't just purchase implants (product), she undergoes a surgical procedure, under the care of a plastic surgeon (service). The fact that she had surgery can't be undone, but the implants can be removed. Removal would be a very unusual option and should be carefully considered after discussion with the surgeon.

Sutton Graham II, MD
Greenville Plastic Surgeon

They are not lifetime devices

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Implant companies and plastic surgeons will all tell you that an implant is not guaranteed to last your lifetime. It is possible that the implants may perform well for decades and only need occasional monitoring. The FDA recommends that women who get silicone implants after the Nov 06 approval have an MRI 3 years after surgery and then every 2 years thereafter. This is quite a conservative approach but that was the recommendation with approval. There is no "return" policy if you change your mind or want to change implant sizes. Most plastic surgeons will have a revision policy that should be discussed prior to having surgery.

Dr Edwards

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Implants are not lifetime devices

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All implant companies and surgeons will advise patients that implants are not intended to last a lifetime even though some will. Most commonly they will fail through leakage, usually by something call fold failure whereby the folds and creases in the bag will fracture or crack, sort of like bending a credit card until it cracks.

Each implant manufacturer has different warranties that provide for certain benefits in the event of a leakage because they know some will fail. You can get scientific, statistical data of the rate of failure from each company for each style of implant.

Some patients want to have their implants removed if they have a hard time adjusting to them. I always tell patient this is an unknown and one ofthe risks of cosmetic surgery in that a patient cannot tell how they will react to the surgery. It really is caveat emptor. Or as I explain it, art ain't done until it's done.

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon

You should contact Mentor and Allergan

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Most of your questions can be answered by the two major implant manufactures, Mentor and Allergan. As for the "return policy," I have only hav one patient in 20 years want their implants taken out early postop. This was a peculiar situation caused by a family conflict and an arranged marriage. So, there really isn't a return poilcy but they are extremely easy to remove.

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.