Breast implants don’t last forever. If you have breast implants, you will need to have them removed or replaced at some time in your life. But how often should you replace breast implants?
Breast implants last an average 10 years.
But they’re not like the engine filter on your car, which must be replaced every 15,000 miles (or however often it is- I’m not a car person!). But after 10 years the rate of rupture increases. Some may last longer, some less time.
There are two reasons to replace breast implants:
Capsular contracture happens when firm scar tissue forms around the breast. This can vary in severity from slightly firm to hard and painful. We (the medical community) think this is due to more inflammation than normal, which results in the body laying down more scar tissue. It’s more common if you have a hematoma after surgery, meaning bleeding collects around the implant. It’s also associated with bacteria infection, even if it’s a subclinical infection, meaning one with no symptoms.
In the earliest stages capsular contracture can sometimes be reversed with medications and massage. So if you have breast implants and notice that one side feels firmer than the other, it’s critical to see your plastic surgeon right away.
Once capsular contracture is fully developed the only effective treatment is to surgically remove the capsule and replace the implant.
Rupture of the breast Implant
Both saline and silicone breast implants have a shell made of silicone. Over time the silicone weakens, and eventually it ruptures. As I mentioned previously, this risk increases around the 10 year mark. Before that the risk is 1% per year, so in 10 years 10% of women will have a rupture.
Ruptured saline implants deflate as your body absorbs the saline. (We use the same saline to fill implants that is given through an IV if you are in the hospital). As the implant deflates, the rupture becomes obvious.
Ruptured silicone implants may be more difficult to diagnose because the silicone is a very thick gel. So it’s more like the implant cracks, than actually ruptures. Check out the video below to see what I mean:
If your silicone implants feel different or look different, or if you’ve had any recent trauma (like getting head butted in the chest by a toddler) then it’s worth getting an MRI to see.
What does it cost to replace breast implants?
Replacement is covered under warranty for rupture. Warranties vary by manufacturer, and some have a time limit. Some manufacturers also extend their warranty to cover capsular contracture. So call your implant manufacturer to get the details. (This is why it’s critical to save the little card the hospital gives you after surgery!)
The ultimate cost of replacing your breast implants depend on whether you simply remove the implants, replace the implants, or replace them and remove a thickened capsule. Costs could range from anything to $3000 – $8000 depending on the amount of time involved.
And if you’re ready to have your implants replaced, know that you may still have to have your implants replaced again in the future.
What if you aren’t having problems?
If your implants are intact and not painful, it’s totally okay to leave them in place. Most plastic surgeons are very happy to check in with you once a year and make sure everything is okay, even if they didn’t do the original implant surgery.
Dr. Greer is a plastic surgeon in Cleveland, OH. You can read more on her practice website at www.greerplastics.com.