Although breast implants don’t actually expire, they aren’t guaranteed to last a lifetime. The average saline or silicone implants may last anywhere from 10 to 20 years.
However, many are removed sooner due to complications or cosmetic concerns. Up to 20 percent of people have their implants removed or replaced within 8 to 10 years.
Wondering if it’s time to have yours replaced? Read on to find out symptoms to watch for, what you can expect from removal, and more.
The following complications may necessitate breast implant removal.
This can also cause tightness, pain, tenderness, and abnormal cosmetic changes to the breast.
In some cases, hardening may happen more than once to the same breast.
Saline rupture (leakage and deflation)
If a saline breast implant ruptures because of a tear or hole in the implant’s shell, it will begin to deflate like a balloon.
The saline in your implant will leak out and get reabsorbed by your body. This leak can happen all at once or slowly over the course of a few days.
The deflation may not become obvious until all of the saline leaks out. The affected breast will lose its size and shape and look dramatically different from your other breast.
Breast implant ruptures are rare in the first few years, but the risk does increase over time.
Silicone rupture (silent rupture)
Silicone implants can also rupture.
Silicone gel is much thicker than saline. When a silicone implant ruptures, the gel will often stay inside the implant or surrounding scar tissue.
Because of this, ruptured silicone implants often go unnoticed. That’s why silicone ruptures are also known as silent ruptures.
Most people don’t experience any symptoms. When symptoms are present, they can include:
- decreased breast size
- hard knots
- an uneven appearance of the breasts
- pain or tenderness
- changes in sensation
Although the exact rate of silicone rupture is unknown, it’s estimated to be somewhere between 2 and 12 percent.
Some implants rupture immediately, some after several years, and others after 10 years or more.
Rippling and palpability
Rippling occurs when the implant develops wrinkles or ripples. Palpability refers to the ability to feel these ripples when you touch your breast. In some cases, these changes can also be seen through the skin.
If you see or feel wrinkling in your implant, you may want to consider replacing or removing it.
Change in position
Breast implants don’t prevent your breasts from sagging as you age. Gravity is still going to take its toll. Weight gain and loss can also cause stretching and sagging of the breasts.
You may also notice that one breast hangs lower than the other, or that your nipples point in different directions than before.
If you’re bothered by these changes, getting a breast lift or implant replacement may help return your breasts to their previous appearance.
Any qualified plastic surgeon can remove your breast implants. It doesn’t need to be the same surgeon who did your first surgery.
During an initial consultation, the surgeon you choose will evaluate the state of your current implants and discuss your surgical options.
Depending on your preferences, your surgeon can do any of the following:
- implant removal alone
- implant removal and breast lift
- removal of hardened or lumpy tissue
- implant replacement with or without breast lift
Sometimes, implant removal alone can lead to cosmetic abnormalities. This includes:
Because of this, your doctor may recommend replacing your implants with implants of a different size or shape.
Depending on the specifics of your procedure, you may be able to return home the day of your surgery. Recovery time differs for everyone.
Many people are able to resume working in about five days, but it’ll be about six weeks until you can resume strenuous activities like exercising and lifting.
Following all postoperative instructions can help improve your healing time and prevent infection.
Implant replacement is a procedure in which your doctor switches out your implants for a newer model. Whether you stick to the same type, size, and shape is up to you,
The procedure may also be combined with a breast lift or scar tissue removal.
The cost of implant replacement is higher than that of implant removal. You’ll need to pay for the initial removal, replacement implants, and any related procedures.
Depending on your procedure package and geographic location, your overall out-of-pocket cost may be anywhere from $2,500 to $7,000.
One of the most commonly cited reasons for removal is unhappiness with the implant size and shape.
It’s natural for tastes to change over the course of a lifetime. One of the best ways to make your implants last is to pick a size and shape that you feel like you can live with for 10 to 20 years.
In other cases, local complications are to blame. Ruptures and deflations, for example, often result from normal wear and tear or surgical error.
For the best outcomes:
- Choose your surgeon carefully.
- Follow all postoperative instructions.
- Get regular MRIs to check for silicone ruptures.
Implants aren’t guaranteed to last a lifetime. You may need to have them removed or replaced for a variety of reasons.
The best way to ensure their longevity is to work with a board-certified plastic surgeon and follow all postoperative instructions.