Signs It Is Time To Replace Your Breast Implants

Dr. Jeffrey Lee is a Harvard trained plastic surgeon serving patients in the greater Boston area. He specializes in cosmetic procedures of the face, breast, body, as well as nonsurgical treatments such as Botox and Juvederm. After medical school, he completed his training in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard Medical School hospital. During this time, he also completed a fellowship in the Plastic Surgery Research Lab where he published numerous book chapters and journal articles. He also traveled extensively giving presentations at the national and international level advancing the field of plastic surgery. Haute Beauty discusses the average life span on breast implants with Dr. Lee and what a breast implant replacement surgery is like.

Dr. LeePhoto Credit: ShutterstockHB: What is the average life span of breast implants?

Whether it be saline or silicone implants, my recommendation is to switch out breast implants after 10-15 years. It used to be that implants should be replaced every 10 years and many surgeons still make this recommendation but implants have become much more durable. While it is fine to go past the 10-year mark, I do not recommend going past the 15-year mark because eventually, the implants will rupture if you leave them in long enough.

HB: What are some signs patients should look for to know it is time to replace their breast implants?

If a saline implant ruptures, it is usually pretty obvious because the implant deflates within 1-2 days. If a silicone implant ruptures, it can sometimes be less obvious. As a result, I generally recommend doing breast implant self-exams which is incorporated into breast implant massage. This helps the patient notice any kind of change and is a good way of keeping an eye on your breast implants. Older generation silicone implants lose their shape a little bit if they rupture so patients can sometimes see a difference and sometimes they feel a difference. Either way, the best first step is to get examined by a plastic surgeon. Sometimes there is a role for ultrasound or MRI to confirm the diagnosis of a ruptured implant.

Massaging BreastsPhoto Credit: ShutterstockHB: What is breast implant replacement surgery like?

If you catch an implant rupture early, it can still be fairly easy to either remove or exchange. If you wait too long, patients can develop capsular contracture in which case more work needs to be done. In order to treat the capsular contracture, I need to do a capsulectomy. In some cases, there is too much inflammation to replace a breast implant at the same time and I ask that the patient wait 6 months before putting new implants back in.

HB: What is recovery like?

Recovery of a breast implant exchange is relatively easy and is almost always easier than when the implants first went in. Most patients only have to take a few days off work/school and are feeling pretty good the next day. If I need to do a capsulectomy, the recovery is harder and patients feel sore for a few days longer than when I do an exchange only.