Breast augmentation, like most other types of plastic surgery, is long lasting, but unfortunately not “forever.” Patients who choose augmentation with implants should understand that there is always the possibility of having to undergo additional surgeries in the future, depending on how the implants and body interact as time goes by.
With that in mind, it’s important to attend annual checkups and perform self-examinations to ensure that the implants remain in good shape. The risk of implant rupture gradually increases with time (by about 1 percent each year), with many devices expected to have a lifespan of around 20 years or more. That being said, despite the common misconception, there is no expiration date on implants, and even older implants don’t automatically have to be replaced unless there are warning signs. The Jacobs Center For Cosmetic Surgery team advises San Francisco-area breast augmentation patients that there are steps that can be taken to make implants last longer.
As time passes, our breasts go through many changes—even without implants. This is due to the natural process of aging, skin damage, gravity, weight fluctuations, hormones, and pregnancy. The breasts often contain more fat as a woman approaches middle age, which is also when the skin begins to significantly lose its elasticity, leading to breast sagging (ptosis).
Implants themselves experience gradual “wear and tear,” made worse by friction with the inner structures of the breasts. Age, skin type, and build will all affect the longevity of the structural integrity of the implants. During an initial consultation, it’s best to bring up any questions you may have about breast implant longevity and risks. Following your surgeon’s specific aftercare instructions can help to greatly reduce any risks associated with implants.
Having evolved over the span of several decades, modern implant devices are generally safe, and complications are very rare. Some of the most common types of complications that make breast implant removal or replacement necessary include hardening, mild or severe ruptures, rippling, and change in position. A certain amount of deterioration is inevitable, so vigilance and ongoing awareness of warning signs to watch for are key. Implant replacement procedures, known as revision surgeries, are sometimes combined with scar tissue removal and breast lifts.
Silicone implants are the more popular choice for breast augmentation, as many people believe their texture and appearance is more similar to that of actual breasts. Saline implants are filled with a sterile, saltwater solution, while silicone implants contain a gelatinous material.
It is more difficult to detect ruptures in silicone implants. With saline devices, holes and leaks cause the devices to visibly deflate, rapidly transforming the breast shape as the fluid is reabsorbed into the body. With silicone implants, the more viscous gel tends to remain within the implant capsules or slowly drift into surrounding tissue, so leaks aren’t as noticeable. When a rupture does occur, some women experience such symptoms as decreased breast size, hard knots, unevenness, pain, swelling, and numbness. Silicone leaks can also result in other health problems, such as infections. The FDA recommends having regular MRI scans in the years after augmentation surgery with silicone implants.
Unfortunately, even after having breast surgery—such as a breast augmentation, lift, or reduction—it’s not possible to fully prevent nature from taking its course. Skin and tissues can continue to grow stretched out due to gravity or damage. This may cause drooping and changes to the shape of the breasts. Some common reasons why people choose to have their implants replaced or removed include dissatisfaction with their appearance because of these changes, or the fact that their lifestyle or aesthetic preferences have changed.
If you’re ready to get started with breast augmentation, The Jacobs Center For Cosmetic Surgery team is prepared to guide you through the process. For more details, visit their contact page to send them a message, or call (415) 433-0303 (San Francisco) or (707) 473-0220 (Healdsburg).