One of the most commonly-asked questions by plastic surgery patients is this one: How long will my results last? This is a very reasonable question. Most things in life don’t last forever, but the more we pay for something, whether it’s breast implants or a new car, the longer we expect it to last.
In the case of breast implants, there isn’t a straightforward answer. Some women may keep their original breast implants to something approaching “forever,” and some may need breast implant revision surgery just a few years after their original breast augmentation. The question of when, or whether, you should change your implants depends on whether you experience any complications after your initial augmentation. The motto “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to apply here as much as elsewhere in life.
Reasons for Breast Implant Revision Surgery
There can be several reasons why you would need your breast implants changed by undergoing what’s called breast implant revision surgery:
Your Saline Implant Has Deflated
If you have saline implants and experience a rather sudden and marked difference in the size of your breasts, it is likely due to a rupture in the silicone shell or a leak in the valve. Note that this is completely harmless, however it does need to be addressed. You could opt to simply have the deflated implant replaced, or you might want both replaced in case they are older and harder to match. Or you might opt to switch to silicone. In either case, your revision surgery will take less time than an original augmentation, but your recovery will be comparable.
Your Silicone Gel Implant Has Ruptured
This is harder to detect than a saline implant rupture, because the silicone more or less stays in place even with a rupture. It won’t travel to other parts of your body, nor will it react with the tissue or be absorbed. Nevertheless, the FDA recommends MRIs every 2-3 years after getting silicone implants to make sure that they have not ruptured. Should you experience a rupture, it is recommended to have implant revision surgery to replace the faulty implants. (Of course, resistance to rupture is just one factor when choosing the right breast implant.)
Scar Tissue Around Implant Has Thickened and Feels Uncomfortable
Whenever a foreign material is introduced to the body, it responds by forming scar tissue around it. Breast implants are no different, and this is completely natural. However, in some cases this scar tissue can thicken and/or contract, making the implant feel too firm and uncomfortable. The technical term for this is capsular contracture. If your implant begins to hurt or feel uncomfortable, capsular contracture might be the reason. You should see your surgeon to be evaluated.
Other Reasons for Breast Implant Revision Surgery
Even if none of the above is an issue, you might not be happy with your breast implants. They might be asymmetric or deformed because the original implant surgery wasn’t done correctly, or extreme weight loss, pregnancy, or lactation might have changed your body to where your breasts don’t look right for it anymore. In this case, you should also consult with a plastic surgeon to go through your options.
Don’t be alarmed by this rather long list. It doesn’t mean that having breast implants results in a lot of problems. These are the exception, not the norm. Between saline and silicone, there isn’t one that causes more problems than the other, and ruptured implants are not a common occurrence. In general, staying conservative (i.e. rather smaller than larger) with your implant size helps keep the revision rate low.
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
When you do get new implants, you might also have new options that weren’t available when you had your first ones put in: smooth vs textured, round vs teardrop, smaller vs larger. But on the last point be careful. Having breast implant revision surgery just because you want to change the size of your implants might not be a great idea. If your first surgery achieved a good balance of size and shape, you might upset that balance by changing a key factor that made it work the first time. You certainly don’t want to undergo surgery where the outcome might make things worse. Again, if you experience no problems with your breast implants, leaving them alone is a good idea.
What’s important to know is that simply because they are old, there is no reason to replace your breast implants after a certain number of years. Just like an old car that’s running well, you might just be lucky and get more time out of yours than average.
If you haven’t had a breast augmentation and are thinking about having the procedure done, bearing the above in mind may help you to plan your surgery. A good plastic surgeon will make sure he or she listens carefully to your goals and determines whether and how they can be achieved. Making sure you make an informed choice about the type of implant, the texture, and the shape goes a long way toward being happy with your implants for years to come.