One of the most common questions that patients ask when they come in for a consultation is, “how long do breast implants last?” Some ask because they have friends that have had breast implants and insist that you have to replace them every ten years. Other patients that are exploring possibilities, such as types of implants, want to know if some implants last longer than others, i.e. silicone vs. saline. In all, there are too many factors to give a definitive answer to the question, “how long do breast implants last?”
How Long Breast Implants Last After Surgery
Typically, when asked, “how long do breast implants last,” the answer you will get is ten years. However, this isn’t a hard and fast answer. Manufacturers typically offer a ten-year warranty on breast implants (to offset some of the cost of replacement surgery), and many women assume that this means that they should be replaced every ten years. Keep in mind that many products, such as appliances, come with a warranty, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you absolutely must replace them at the ten-year mark. The oft-cited ten-year shelf life statistic might also be used because implants have a higher failure rate as they get older. Some breast implants can be fine for over two decades, which is rare, while others may need to be replaced after only a couple of years.
Once I’ve attained my desired larger breast size, will I ever need to repeat the surgery?
A breast implant is not a “lifetime” device any more than an artificial joint, such as a knee or a heart valve is. The longevity of breast implants is somewhat age dependent. The younger women are when they get breast implants, the more likely they will need to have the implants replaced. The reasons for removal and replacement are diverse.
Some women elect to have implants removed–or removed and then replaced–with larger or smaller implants. The motivation to repeat the procedure varies from woman to woman. In some cases, especially when breast implant surgery takes place in a woman’s late teens or early twenties, her tastes or needs may change later in life.
She may decide that she’d prefer larger or smaller implants in the future–or may want to recapture her original figure. A woman with breast implants may desire a change after becoming pregnant and/or breastfeeding. Occasionally, women change their minds as to the type of implant, wanting to switch from saline to gel, for example.
The likelihood of removal or replacement is greater the earlier in life you get breast implants. The percentage of women who had implants removed (and/or replaced) in 2013 is less than 10 percent of the amount who had breast augmentations last year. Most of the removals and replacements were elective and voluntary.
Reasons Why Implants Are Removed
The most common reasons that implants are removed are due to a desired change in size, deflation or capsular contracture. Other reasons may include:
- Implant malposition – Occurs when the implants are not positioned correctly. This can happen over time or can be due to trauma to the breast.
- Wrinkling – When an implant wrinkles the skin over the breast can appear to have ripples.
- Palpability – If an implant can be felt underneath the skin, the implant has become palpable
- Breast pain – If you are experiencing breast pain it is possible that your implants will need to be removed.
- Iatrogenic injury – Occurs when a doctor accidentally damages the implant.
These reasons are much less common than wanting to go up or down an implant size or having an implant deflate or rupture.
You might decide to replace your implants with a different size because you have a different idea of your body at different stages of your life. Some women opt to go bigger after a while because they’ve had kids and their bodies have changed. Other women decide that they would like to try silicone because they have a more natural appearance than saline. And some women want to go for a smaller, more natural look once they have kids. All these personal choices and desires play a stronger role in how long breast implants last after surgery than the oft-cited ten-year mark.
Breast implants may need replacing if they develop a fold or crease in a particular spot. If the fold continues to develop, it can eventually weaken and even break, causing a rupture. In other cases, the fold may not affect the breast implant at all.
How long breast implants last after surgery tends to depend on whether or not the implants have ruptured, in which case they definitely need to be replaced. There can be other signs and symptoms that your implants should be replaced as well.
Indications That Your Breast Implants Need to Be Replaced
When saline implants leak, they deflate and it is obvious that they need to be replaced. With silicone implants, it can be harder to detect a leak because the outer shell can break without any obvious signs. For this reason, it is usually recommended that periodic scans and exams take place to ensure that there is no “silent rupture.” Although saline leakage into the body is fairly harmless, silicone leakage can make its way into the body and cause scar formation.
The newest versions of silicone implants were put on the market in 2006. Prior to this, silicone implants date back to the 1960s, with newer models making an appearance roughly every decade since. It is unlikely that there are many of the originals are still out there, but it is a possibility. It is hard to say which types of silicone implants require replacing, but they are usually older versions, as the new silicone implants were designed to have a lower rate of rupture. Silent ruptures usually call for the immediate removal of silicone breast implants to prevent leaking and the risk of causing possible health problems as a result—although whether or not silicone implant ruptures cause health problems is still under study.
Capsular contracture occurs when the space around the implant hardens. Scar tissue can build up around the implant and cause pain and hardening around the breast. Usually, the best course of action is a removal of the implants, but not always. It is important to contact your surgeon immediately to determine your best course of action if you suspect your implants have capsular contracture.
Changes in Appearance and Size
Changes in the appearance and size of breast implants can also mean that they need to be replaced as one breast might be ruptured if the breasts become asymmetrical, or the implants may have shifted in the body.
Protocol for Having Breast Implants Replaced
To ensure the longevity of your breast implants, choose a reliable plastic surgeon. Much of the answer to “How long do breast implants last?” can be answered by the skill and experience of the plastic surgeon. You can still expect to have breast implants replaced periodically throughout your life as the course of normal wear and tear, even with a skilled surgeon.
If you experience a deflated or ruptured breast implant, check your warranty as many deflated implants can be replaced for a reduced cost. Breast implant replacement surgery comes with nearly the same risks and rewards of your initial surgery and may be performed for various reasons.
How to Increase the Longevity of Breast Implants
The best way to prevent ever having to make any changes to your breasts or implants after your breast enlargement procedure is to carefully consider all your options, your timing, and your future plans–and discuss them with your surgeon.
An experienced surgeon will help you determine whether you’re a good candidate for breast implants and if so, help you choose the right type, size, and shape of the implant.
To ensure that your breast implants have a long and happy life, be certain that you follow all your surgeon’s instructions, both prior to surgery and during your recovery period. It’s also incredibly important to eat right and, if you smoke, to quit. (You must quit smoking at least temporarily before and after surgery and avoid alcohol until your surgeon gives the ok.)
To determine if you’re likely to need or want to replace your breast implants, discuss your specific goals and plans with your surgeon. This way, you’ll come away with a wealth of personalized information that will shed light on your breast augmentation’s outcome and future options.
Choose an Expert Breast Implant Surgeon
The research that you’re doing now, especially your choice of surgeon, can go a long way towards ensuring an excellent breast augmentation outcome and long lasting breast implants To choose a skilled and experienced surgeon you need to learn about their:
Technical expertise: Should you ever want or need to remove your breast implants, you’ll be able to do so more easily, with less scarring and quicker healing when your initial surgery is done by an expert–according to exacting medical and surgical standards.
Background knowledge: Having performed many similar breast implant procedures, your surgeon has gained insight into concerns like how to create a natural-looking, but enhanced outcome.
Flexibility: An experienced surgeon has developed intricate techniques to fit a variety of women’s unique needs, goals, ages, sizes and health issues. They will design your breast implant procedure around you.
Sophisticated surgical ability: An experienced surgeon uses efficient methods to limit incisions and scarring to speed the healing process. Your outcome is largely technique dependent, so choose a surgeon who’s earned your confidence.
Highly tuned aesthetics: When you select a surgeon experienced in reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries, you can expect an intricate knowledge of anatomy combined with well-honed aesthetic sensibilities. Your “new” breasts will be positioned evenly and properly on the chest and gracefully shaped to best advantage, keeping your preferences in mind.
Expert advice: The best plastic surgeons will help you clarify your needs and goals for surgery–and will not proceed unless those desires are realistic and achievable. In other words, if your surgeon agrees to go forward and perform the breast implant procedure—that means they expect an excellent outcome. If you’re not a good candidate for the procedure, a dedicated surgeon will let you know.