Do I Need New Breast Implants?

breast implants

Very few things last a lifetime, breast implants included. Like most products, eventually there may come a time when you will want or need to exchange your current implants for a new pair.

If you’re wondering whether you’re due for an implant upgrade, we’re here to help! Breast augmentation and breast implant revision are two of the procedures Dr. Pancholi performs most frequently at Cosmetic Surgery of Las Vegas, and we receive a lot of questions surrounding breast implant replacement. We’ve addressed the basics below to help guide your research.

How long do breast implants last?

There is a common misconception that breast implants “expire” after 10 years. This probably stems from the fact that most breast implant warranties provide maximum coverage for expenses related to removal or replacement for 10 years—and studies have shown that the risk of complication and rupture begins to increase around this time.

Dr. Pancholi encourages his patients to begin considering replacement around the 10 year mark—particularly those with silicone gel implants.

Complications that merit replacement, such as implant rupture or capsular contracture, can occur at any time after breast implants are inserted. The chance for such complications is very low in newer implants, but increases as implants get older. For example, a recently published 12-year retrospective study of silicone gel implants estimated the risk of removal for rupture at only 0.5% after about three years, 6% after about five years, and 14% after eight years.

With this in mind, it is a good idea to follow up with your cosmetic surgeon every few years to make sure your implants are retaining their quality, or any time you have a concern about them. While modern generations of breast implants are very durable and can last for many years in most patients, Dr. Pancholi encourages his patients to begin considering replacement around the 10 year mark—particularly for those with silicone gel implants.

When (and why) you should consider replacing your breast implants

In general, there is no hard rule about replacing your breast implants after 10 years if you aren’t experiencing any complications. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Different implant types have greater consequences should a complication occur

When breast implants of any kind are first inserted during your primary breast augmentation, your body reacts by forming a “capsule” of scar tissue around the implant over the first few days. This capsule both holds the implant in place and provides structure.

While the various types of implants are considered very safe, they do behave differently should a complication, specifically a rupture, occur. Here’s what happens:

Saline breast implants will quickly “deflate,” and you’ll notice a difference in the appearance of your breast right away as the saline filling spills out of the implant shell into the breast capsule. Your body will safely absorb this sterile saltwater solution with no health consequences. At this point, it is your choice whether you have one or both of your implants replaced or choose to have them removed entirely.

Gummy bear, or highly cohesive, breast implants can technically “rupture,” though the nature of the implant filling means it won’t technically leak. It is extremely difficult to detect when a rupture has occurred without an MRI, though there is little immediate consequence. (The FDA recommends that patients with silicone implants get an MRI three years after surgery and every two years thereafter.) That’s because the gel filling of the implant is a very thick, form-stable silicone gel that won’t ooze out from the implant shell into the capsule. When the implant is removed, the capsule may or may not be removed along with it.

Similar to gummy bear implants, regular silicone gel breast implants don’t quickly deflate upon rupture. Unlike gummy bear implants, the silicone filling may migrate into the capsule. This situation can impact both your revision surgery and your breast appearance. When the implant is replaced, it is likely your cosmetic surgeon will remove the capsule along with the ruptured implant—and this is where things can get tricky. There is a greater risk of “spillage” during the procedure, and once the capsule is removed (along with the structure it provided), the shape of the breast once a new implant is inserted may be different. This can make it more difficult to achieve a symmetrical appearance.

For this reason, Dr. Pancholi advises patients with silicone gel breast implants against waiting for a problem to occur before considering replacement, if they are nearing the 10-year mark since their surgery. (Our tip: consider it the perfect opportunity for an upgrade! You may be surprised at how many more options you have for achieving your perfect look now than you did 10 years ago.)

You are experiencing breast implant complications

If you are experiencing any of the following, it’s time to call your cosmetic surgeon for a consultation for revision surgery:

  • You suspect complications such as capsular contracture. If one or both breasts feels unnaturally hard or you are experiencing breast pain, see your cosmetic surgeon ASAP to address these issues; typically revision surgery is needed to correct capsular contracture.
  • Your results are misshapen or asymmetrical. From time to time, a patient will present with implants that have shifted below the natural breast crease (bottoming out), implants that are placed too far apart or too close together (“bread loafing”), or other implant deformities. Such issues can almost always be avoided by choosing qualified, experienced cosmetic surgeon for your initial breast augmentation, but if you are dissatisfied with your results, an experienced breast revision specialist can help.
  • One or both implants have ruptured. If only one implant has ruptured, it’s usually best to replace them both.

You simply want a new look

Fortunately, the above problems are relatively uncommon, and many of our Las Vegas breast augmentation patients choose to exchange their breast implants for purely aesthetic reasons. A few reasons you might elect to replace your implants sooner rather than later:

  • If it’s been several years since you had breast augmentation, you may consider upgrading your implants—and your look. Recent advancements in breast implant technology have resulted in a greater variety of sizes, shapes, filling consistencies (which contribute to how the augmented breast feels to the touch) as well as more durable implants.
  • You want to go bigger or smaller. It’s not uncommon for a patient to desire larger implants once she experiences the confidence-boosting benefits of breast augmentation first-hand. Implants can usually be exchanged for a larger size using the existing incision sites, with some modification of the implant “pocket” beneath the breast. If you’d like to go smaller, on the other hand, you may need a breast lift at the same time to address any excess tissue resulting from a reduction in implant size.
  • Childbearing or aging has affected your breasts’ appearance or comfort. If pregnancy and breastfeeding, weight fluctuations, or aging have caused your breasts to stretch or sag, then revision surgery including a breast lift and implant exchange can help restore your desired look and “reset the clock” with a brand new pair of implants.

Ultimately, knowing if or when to replace your breast implants requires a frank, thorough discussion with a qualified cosmetic surgeon who is experienced in breast revision surgery, and who can offer guidance in choosing the right breast implants to meet your current needs.

If you are considering your options for breast implant revision in Las Vegas, we encourage you to contact us for a consultation with Dr. Pancholi. A diplomate of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, he has specialized in breast augmentation and implant revision for nearly 10 years. He will offer honest recommendations and guidance to help you make the right decisions for your breast appearance and health.

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