When is it time to replace breast implants?

ABC7’s More in the Morning crew spoke with Dr. Michael Kim, plastic surgeon, about when it’s time to have breast implants replaced. 1-3% (roughly 400,000) of women in the United State have breast implants. 75% of these women get them for cosmetic reasons, 25% reconstruction after breast cancer surgery.

Many women mistakenly believe that breast implants must be replaced every 10 years. This is a myth. Breast implants only need to be replaced if you have a problem such as an implant rupture or capsular contracture. If they have not ruptured and feel soft, you don’t need to replace them regardless of how long they have been in.

Indications you need to replace your breast implants:

  • Capsular Contracture - Breast implants are a foreign body, and your body’s natural response is to form scar tissue around them. If the scar tissue becomes too thick, this makes the implant firm and possibly painful, a condition known as capsular contracture.
  • Implant Displacement - The breast implant mvoes from it's intended location.
  • Visible Rippling - In general, saline implant rippling is more common than silicone implant rippling. Also, larger implants tend to show rippling more often than smaller implants.
  • Ruptured Implant - The implant ruptures and leaks saline or silicone into the surrounding tissues.
  • Nipple Malposition - If an implant is not properly positioned behind the breast, the breast will look very odd. The breast will not have the proper ratio of volume above and below the level of the nipple, as well as to the inside and outside of the nipple.

What happens if you don’t replace ruptured breast implants?

Firstly, it should be noted that there are no studies in which doctors leave ruptured breast implants in place simply to see what happens.

With a ruptured implant, Dr. Kim recommends removal of the implant, whether it is silicone or saline. If a ruptured silicone implant is left in place, the silicone could cause inflammation that results in pain or the development of scar tissue (i.e. capsular contracture). For this reason, some insurance companies will cover removal of a ruptured silicone breast implant. Saline implants are less clear-cut however. Insurance generally will not pay for removal of a ruptured saline implant. This could be taken to mean ruptured saline implants do not cause problems. And anecdotally this appears to be true. But Dr. Kim still recommends removing the implant if it is ruptured.

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