Breast Implant Revision: Is It Time To Exchange Your Implants?

(model) brunette woman in green dress thinks about breast implant revision

Breast augmentation has remained consistently in the top two surgical procedures since the development of breast implants in the 1960s, with 364,753 breast augmentation surgeries performed in 2021 alone. As our population ages, so have their breast implants.  

One of the most common questions we get in our office or at a cocktail event is, “When should I change out my breast implants? I heard I am supposed to change these out every 10 years.”

How Long Do Breast Implants Last?

The FDA recommends you change out silicone breast implants after 10 years. Why? Do they self-destruct? Of course not. The answer is quite simple, actually. When the FDA studies breast implants, they perform 10-year longitudinal studies, meaning every year, patients with implants will return to be examined. After 10 years, these studies are concluded. So the FDA cannot say with scientific certainty what happens 10 years and 1 day after your implants are placed. Therefore, they advise you to have them changed. We commonly have patients come into our office 15 to 20 years after their initial breast surgery for an implant exchange or revision, and they are doing quite well. 

How Do You Know It’s Time for Breast Implant Exchange?

When patients learn there is no set expiration for their breast implants, their next question is usually, “So, what are the hard reasons I should have my implants exchanged or undergo a revision?” Here are some signs you should pay attention to:

  • If your implants rupture or burst. Friction weakens the shell over time, and the contents leak out. With saline implants, the saline will be reabsorbed by your body and excreted. So you will know almost immediately if there is a leak. With silicone implants, that is a different story. If silicon implants rupture, your body cannot pick up and carry the silicone around your body. So what will happen is the contents will leak out, and your body will wall them off. You may experience increased pain, firmness, or potentially nothing at all. Your annual mammogram or breast MRI will detect rupture 93 to 98% of the time. Is this harmful to you medically? The answer is no, based on all the implant studies in the scientific literature. How often does this happen? About 8% to 10% of silicone implants rupture after 10 years and 13% for saline implants.  
  • If you get capsular contracture or encapsulation. When there is a foreign body inside your body, it forms a wall around it. This is called a capsule. It is formed 2 to 3 weeks after your breast implants are inserted. Typically it is soft, and you would not know it was there. Capsular contracture, or capcon, is when this capsule becomes firm to the touch, painful, or makes the breasts look weird (typically, the implants are pulled upward). This occurs at a rate of 1% a year. The exact etiology is unknown, but the most commonly accepted theory is that the breast implant becomes colonized with bacteria (not infection). Since your body cannot climb on the foreign body to eradicate the bacteria, it forms a thickened, calcified wall around the implant.
  • You are not happy with how your breasts look. This reason is the most common in our practice. It can be shortly after the primary surgery or, in some cases, 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years after the initial surgery. You may be in a different place in life and want to be bigger, smaller, or the same size. (You can learn more about finding the right breast implant to fit your lifestyle in our related blog post.) The implants may have stretched out the pocket, and now the implants lateralize—go into your armpit when lying down—or have bottomed out. Your breast shape may have changed with pregnancy and lactation or weight loss or gain. Take a look at our breast revision before and after pictures to see how beautifully the procedure enhances the breasts.

If you want to know whether the time is right for you, you should schedule an appointment with a board-certified plastic surgeon to discuss your specific situation. You can request a consultation at Lonestar Plastic Surgery’s Frisco, TX, office using our online form or by calling us at {phone}.

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