One of the most common questions that patients ask when they come in for a consultation is, “how long do breast implants last?” Some ask because they have friends that have had breast implants and insist that you have to replace them every ten years. Other patients that are exploring possibilities, such as types of implants, want to know if some implants last longer than others, i.e. silicone vs. saline. In all, there are too many factors to give a definitive answer to the question, “how long do breast implants last?”
How Long Breast Implants Last After Surgery
Typically, when asked, “how long do breast implants last,” the answer you will get is ten years. However, this isn’t a hard and fast answer. Manufacturers typically offer a ten-year warranty on breast implants (to offset some of the cost of replacement surgery), and many women assume that this means that they should be replaced every ten years. Keep in mind that many products, such as appliances, come with a warranty, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you absolutely must replace them at the ten-year mark. The oft-cited ten-year shelf life statistic might also be used because implants have a higher failure rate as they get older. Some breast implants can be fine for over two decades, which is rare, while others may need to be replaced after only a couple of years.
Reasons Why Implants Are Removed
The most common reasons that implants are removed are due to desired change in size, deflation or capsular contracture. Other reasons may include:
- Implant malposition – Occurs when the implants are not positioned correctly. This can happen over time or can be due to trauma to the breast.
- Wrinkling – When an implant wrinkles the skin over the breast can appear to have ripples.
- Palpability – If an implant can be felt underneath the skin, the implant has become palpable
- Breast pain – If you are experiencing breast pain it is possible that your implants will need to be removed.
- Iatrogenic injury – Occurs when a doctor accidentally damages the implant.
These reasons are much less common than wanting to go up or down an implant size or having an implant deflate or rupture.
You might decide to replace your implants with a different size because you have a different idea of your body at different stages of your life. Some women opt to go bigger after a while because they’ve had kids and their bodies have changed. Other women decide that they would like to try silicone because they have a more natural appearance than saline. And some women want to go for a smaller, more natural look once they have kids. All these personal choices and desires play a stronger role in how long breast implants last after surgery than the oft-cited ten-year mark.
Breast implants may need replacing if they develop a fold or crease in a particular spot. If the fold continues to develop, it can eventually weaken and even break, causing a rupture. In other cases, the fold may not affect the breast implant at all.
How long breast implants last after surgery tends to depend on whether or not the implants have ruptured, in which case they definitely need to be replaced. There can be other signs and symptoms that your implants should be replaced as well.
Indications That Your Breast Implants Need to Be Replaced
When saline implants leak, they deflate and it is obvious that they need to be replaced. With silicone implants, it can be harder to detect a leak because the outer shell can break without any obvious signs. For this reason, it is usually recommended that periodic scans and exams take place to ensure that there is no “silent rupture.” Although saline leakage into the body is fairly harmless, silicone leakage can make its way into the body and cause scar formation.
The newest versions of silicone implants were put on the market in 2006. Prior to this, silicone implants date back to the 1960s, with newer models making an appearance roughly every decade since. It is unlikely that there are many of the originals are still out there, but it is a possibility. It is hard to say which types of silicone implants require replacing, but they are usually older versions, as the new silicone implants were designed to have a lower rate of rupture. Silent ruptures usually call for the immediate removal of silicone breast implants to prevent leaking and the risk of causing possible health problems as a result—although whether or not silicone implant ruptures cause health problems is still under study.
Capsular contracture occurs when the space around the implant hardens. Scar tissue can build up around the implant and cause pain and hardening around the breast. Usually, the best course of action is a removal of the implants, but not always. It is important to contact your surgeon immediately to determine your best course of action if you suspect your implants have capsular contracture.
Changes in Appearance and Size
Changes in the appearance and size of breast implants can also mean that they need to be replaced as one breast might be ruptured if the breasts become asymmetrical, or the implants may have shifted in the body.
Protocol for Having Breast Implants Replaced
To ensure the longevity of your breast implants, choose a reliable plastic surgeon. Much of the answer to “How long do breast implants last?” can be answered by the skill and experience of the plastic surgeon. You can still expect to have breast implants replaced periodically throughout your life as the course of normal wear and tear, even with a skilled surgeon.
If you experience a deflated or ruptured breast implant, check your warranty as many deflated implants can be replaced for a reduced cost. Breast implant replacement surgery comes with nearly the same risks and rewards of your initial surgery and may be performed for various reasons.