How Long do Breast Implants Last?

Jan 8, 2013 | Breast | 1 comment

reconstruct a breast after cancer

I’m back to conventional plastic surgery topics today, and what’s more “typical” plastic surgery than breast implants?  I covered what having a breast augmentation is like in another post, but today I’m going to talk a little bit more about the implants themselves.  Women may get breast implants for cosmetic reasons, or to reconstruct a breast after cancer, and it’s important to understand the ins and outs of something that is going to be implanted in your body.

The types of implants-

  • Saline vs silicone – are they safe?  I’ve talked about this before in my post on augmentation, but I’ll go into a little more detail here.  First, you should know that both implants are safe.  Silicone implants do not cause autoimmune disease, or arthritis, or any of the plethora of conditions which have been ascribed to them.  The FDA looked very carefully at silicone implants before allowing them to return to the market when these allegations were made, and absolutely no scientific data was found linking silicone breast implants to any of these negative conditions.
  • What about anaplastic large cell lymphoma?  If you’ve been keeping up on the news, you may have heard about lymphoma being associated with silicone breast implants.  This is not an aggressive lymphoma, but more similar to the indolent skin-type lymphomas that do not progress quickly, and are rarely fatal.  More importantly, there are only a handful of cases described (numbering in the double digits), and there is no data to suggest that the breast implants themselves are actually causing this condition. The risk has been estimated at around 0.1 per 100,000 people with implants (literally, 1 in a million), and all of the silicone implant manufacturers are studying this very closely.

So how long do implants actually last?  Most surgeons will tell you to expect a lifespan of 10-20 years.  That’s not to say there is a strict expiration date, after which you must have your implants either removed or replaced.  Rather after that period of time, the risk of needing another operating is much higher.  There are essentially two reasons you might need to remove or replace an implant that was otherwise perfectly fine:

  • Capsular contracture.  This describes a condition in which a tough rind of scar tissue forms around the implant, making it firm, and possibly even painful to the touch.  This isn’t an all or nothing event- there are gradations.  So a person with mild capsular contracture may be happy with the appearance and feel of her implants, and thus not need surgery.  This ultimately happens in anywhere from 15-30% of patients, but again, not all of these patients need their implants replaced.
  • Implant rupture.  When a saline implant ruptures, the saline is reabsorbed by the body, so the implants becomes flat.  So in other words, it’s pretty easy to tell if a saline implant has ruptured.  Silicone is not so easy- silicone itself comes in various consistencies, from a thick gel like honey, right up to something more similar to a gummy bear.  The important thing to know is that this silicone isn’t going to go anywhere; it will stay in the breast implant pocket.  Your implant may change shape, or feel slightly different.  Or you may not even be able to tell (what is called a silent rupture).  For this reason, the FDA recommends an MRI to screen for rupture on all women who have silicone implants: first three years after you get your implants, then every two years after that.  How often do implants rupture?  Around 1% per year, so 10% of patients who have had an implant for 10 years might experience an implant rupture.

Do you have any questions regarding breast implants?

1 Comment
  1. Adel

    I have gummy bear implants n would like them replace



  1. Saline vs. Silicone Breast Implants - [...] find a reputable surgeon specialist and find a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Saline vs. Silicone…
  2. Gregory Smith - I love your blog I have read this article and enjoyed it

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