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Do Breast Implants Need to be Replaced?

Many women opt to enhance the size of their breasts if they feel they lack volume, as fuller breasts are often associated with attractiveness in today’s society. Breast augmentation can be a life-changing procedure for women who, due to genetics, never developed much fullness in their breasts or for women looking to restore volume after weight loss or breastfeeding. Breast implants are foreign objects placed in the body and not designed to last a patient’s lifetime. Most breast augmentation patients eventually need further surgery to have their implants removed and typically replaced.

What is a breast implant exchange?

Breast implant exchange is a type of breast implant revision surgery in which previously placed implants are removed and replaced with new implants. Breast implant exchange is typically not a procedure for patients who feel like getting new implants. Breast implant exchange patients tend to require or desire a new set of implants as their current implants have been in for many years. Many women choose to replace their implants around ten years after their original breast augmentation procedure. Other patients decide to get their breast implants exchanged because they decide they no longer want the size of their current implants. Usually, women want a more natural look because dramatically full breasts have become an inconvenience to their professional life or day-to-day activities or simply because they had a change of heart about what size, shape, or projection suits them best.

How long do breast implants last?

In rare cases, the body starts to reject implants. The average lifespan of a breast implant is 10-15 years longer than this may result in patients being at a higher risk of encountering a complication with their implants, including rupturing, deflation, leakage, or breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). To be safe and avoid complications, board-certified plastic surgeon and breast augmentation specialist Dr. David Liland recommends replacing breast implants every 10-15 years. Implants have improved over the years as the research surrounding them influences further innovations, so staying as up-to-date as possible is always a good idea. If you have had your implants for over 10-15 years, you should consider an implant exchange and upgrade to the most up-to-date and safest available.

How do I know if it’s time to get my breast implants replaced?

Some signs that it may be time to go back and replace your old implants include:

  • You are experiencing pain or discomfort related to your breast implants
  • Your breast implant has bottomed out
  • Your breast implant has ruptured
  • Your breast implant has moved or rotated
  • The shape of your breast implant is changing
  • Your breast implant is causing capsular contracture

Why might breast implants need to be replaced?

Old implants

Many patients opt to get the same implant type and size they originally had but require a new, fresh set. These patients are made aware of other implant options but tend to have an exchange on the same type of implants, just a more recent version.

New desires in appearance

Other patients may choose to get a different type of implant during their breast implant exchange surgery because they are in a new life chapter than when they had their original breast augmentation. A lot can change between your twenties and thirties, including having children and changing jobs. These patients may switch from saline to silicone implants as they look and feel more like natural breast tissue. They may also opt for a smaller-sized implant with less projection, feeling a natural look is more suited to their current phase in life.

Switching from saline to silicone implants

Another reason for a breast implant exchange could be because patients had their original breast augmentation between 18 and 21 years old before they could get silicone implants under FDA regulations. The FDA only approves saline implants for patients within this age range, not silicone ones. These patients may return years later to swap their saline implants for silicone for a more natural look and feel.

Asymmetrically placed implants

Some women choose a breast implant exchange or revision surgery if their current implants appear asymmetric. Although this may be possible to improve with revision surgery, patients should understand that if their natural breast tissue is asymmetric, it may also appear that way after a breast enhancement.

Bottomed out implants

Bottoming out is when an implant falls below the inframammary fold or the natural crease below the breast, causing the breasts to appear bottom-heavy and the nipples to point upward. If you’re noticing this issue with your implants, it is likely time to seek breast implant exchange or some kind of breast revision procedure.

Breast implant rupture

The longer you have the same implants, the greater the chances they may rupture. A breast implant rupture can result from an impact on the breast, surgical error, or cracks in the implant that grow over time. It is best to have your implant removed and replaced immediately after a rupture is detected. According to Cleveland Clinic, breast implant rupture rates range from 1.1% to 17.7% within the 6 to 10-year range after getting a primary breast augmentation.

Capsular contracture

Issues such as capsular contracture are practically unavoidable, regardless of the skill level of a breast augmentation patient’s plastic surgeon. Capsular contracture occurs when a capsule of scar tissue around an implant becomes abnormally hard and contracts itself around the implant, leading to issues in appearance and, in more extreme cases, pain for the patient. About 75% of capsular contractures occur within two years of the implants being inserted, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). The most common cause of capsular contracture long after insertion of the implants is implant rupture.

Is it safe to replace implants after capsular contracture?

If you still wish to have implants after experiencing capsular contracture, the replacement will take place during the treatment for your capsular contracture. Plastic surgeons such as Dr. Liland are highly experienced with treating capsular contracture and understand that, to avoid damaging your tissues with further surgery, it’s best to replace them during the same procedure. If you need to split your implant replacement into two surgeries, wait at least three months between surgeries to allow your tissue to heal sufficiently.

How is breast implant exchange performed?

Dr. Liland has helped many Dallas, Texas, breast implant exchange patients by replacing their old breast implants with newer, more suitable implants. Breast exchange surgery is performed under general anesthesia as incisions are made on the breast to allow the removal of the original breast implants. The incision placement will vary based on the type of implant and where your incision line is from your initial breast augmentation. Dr. Liland discusses the incision sites with patients during consultations to give them a clear understanding of the scarring the procedure will leave behind. Through the incisions, Dr. Liland removes the original breast implants from your breast pockets and inserts the new set of implants. Saline implants are typically deflated before removal and filled once replaced, while silicone implants are pre-filled. Once Dr. Liland has successfully removed the original implants and inserted the new implants, stitches will close the incisions. As with a typical breast augmentation procedure, post-surgery, bandages will be applied to cover the breast area giving support and keeping the incision sites clean to prevent infection.

How soon after my original breast augmentation can I get an implant exchange?

If you are considering breast implant exchange for reasons other than capsular contracture, Dr. Liland recommends waiting at least 6 to 12 months after your initial augmentation before having a revision procedure. Your body needs time to heal, and the result of the previous surgery should be visible before undergoing further procedures.

Will there be new scars after a breast implant revision?

When deciding to get another surgery, breast revision patients are understandably concerned about whether new scars are in addition to their previous ones or if the surgeon will try to conceal the new ones around the pre-existing scars. It’s important to understand that any surgery results in scarring to some extent but with advanced technology, it is possible to minimize new scarring as much as possible during a breast implant exchange.

If you believe it is time to replace your old breast implants with new ones, request a consultation with Dr. Liland, a board-certified plastic surgeon based in Dallas, Texas. Specializing in breast surgery, Dr. Liland will assess your condition, listen to your goals, and recommend whether breast implant exchange surgery is necessary.