For decades scare-tactic articles about breast implants have proliferated in the news and media, linking them to cancer or other dire health consequences, including autoimmune diseases. Over the last four decades, research and patient experience have proven breast implants to be safe, but that doesn’t mean that they will last forever and never have to be removed or replaced. As with anything else, breast implants have a lifespan, and a patient may find herself ready for new implants under certain circumstances, although this often occurs years or even decades after the original surgery.
Breast implants are durable and long lasting, and both silicone and saline breast implants are FDA approved for cosmetic breast implantation in the United States. Occasionally a patient will experience a leak or rupture, in which case the implant must be removed. Many patients choose to replace it with another implant at that time.
What happens when an implant leaks or ruptures? If the implant is saline, the body will absorb the liquid and excrete it. If the implant is silicone, the gel remains inert and nearly always stays within the breast pocket from where it is surgically removed. It is simple to tell if a saline implant has ruptured because the breast will be noticeably smaller. A ruptured silicone implant will maintain its shape, however. There are no liquid silicone implants on the market in the United States. All silicone implants currently used in the U.S. are filled with silicone gel. This gel generally stays in place even in the event of a rupture. Because of this and as a precaution due to prior bad press, it is an FDA recommendation for patients who choose silicone implants to get a routine MRI every few years to check for "silent" ruptures.
The good news is that the implants carry a lifetime "parts" warranty, and with silicone, the manufacturer pays for the surgery (much more expensive than the implant itself) if the implant should rupture within 10 years.
There are several other, far more common, reasons why a woman may choose to have her implants replaced. Going bigger or having lifts are the most common reason for additional surgery after augmentation. Sometimes patients are not satisfied with the results of their surgeries and wish to have them redone. This can be the case when patients are not careful about following post-surgical instructions - which is why we make sure to emphasize how important post-surgical care is to our patients. Sometimes breast implant complications such as capsular contracture, or deflation and drooping must be corrected surgically as well. Life events like pregnancy, weight loss/gain, and lack of proper bra support are 3-4x more likely to lead to revision than device failure and carry no warranty.
Another reason a woman may choose to replace her implants is that technology improves; newer implants may look and feel more natural. She may also decide that she would like a fuller or a less full look depending on her changing ideas of what is beautiful or practical at different stages in life.
If you have any questions about the safety of breast implants or the surgical procedure of breast augmentation, please bring them up in your initial consultation with Dr. Feldman. He will be happy to discuss any concerns with you in addition to helping you decide what the best cosmetic options are for you.