While breast augmentation complications are considerably rare, they do happen on occasion. When detected early, they can be effectively treated, allowing the patient to avoid any long-term issues. As such, it is vital that patients know the signs of capsular contracture to look out for so that they can detect it and undergo treatment as soon as possible.
What is capsular contracture?
Capsular contracture is a potential complication that may arise following breast augmentation surgery with implants, albeit infrequently. The condition can occur in women who have received either silicone or saline implants, but the likelihood of developing it is slightly higher in patients with silicone gel implants. When an implant is put in place, the body naturally creates a scar tissue apparatus around it. Usually, the scar tissue is soft and doesn’t cause any issues. In some cases, however, it can become too hard and start to put pressure on the implant. This condition is known as capsular contracture.
When do symptoms appear?
Typically, the early signs of capsular contracture can be seen within 3-6 months after the breast augmentation procedure. The most common symptoms include a feeling of tightness and hardness around the implant, along with an unnatural appearance to the breast shape. In some cases, pain may be present, although it is not necessarily a sign of capsular contracture. To determine whether or not capsular contracture is present, your plastic surgeon will have to conduct an examination of your breasts.
The Different Grades of Capsular Contracture
Capsular contracture is graded from 1 through 4, with grade 1 being the least severe and grade 4 being the most serious. Grade 1 capsular contracture presents itself with no visible signs or symptoms; however, it can be detected during a physical examination by a Plastic Surgeon. The grade 2 contractures may begin to cause some changes in breast shape and/or firmness, but they are still considered mild. Grade 3 is considered moderate and can result in visible changes in breast shape as well as discomfort. The most severe form of capsular contracture, grade 4, presents itself with a hardened capsule around the implant and considerable pain for the patient.
Early detection of any post-surgical complications following a breast augmentation procedure is key for successful treatment and a complete healing process. As such, it is important that breast augmentation patients take note of any changes in their breasts or unusual sensations to ensure that any potential issues are caught early on and treated as soon as possible. If you suspect you may have capsular contracture or other complications following your breast surgery, don’t hesitate to contact your plastic Surgeon for an evaluation right away.
What causes capsular contracture?
While there is no known cause for the condition, it is believed that bacterial infections play a role in its development. In many cases, however, no explanation can be found. That said, there are certain risk factors that have been linked to the condition, including:
- Breast trauma
- Radiation therapy
- Autoimmune disorders
- Post-procedural complications
- Surgical mistakes
- Excessively large implants
- A ruptured silicone implant
- An implant placed on top of the muscle
How to recognize signs of capsular contracture
Capsular contracture symptoms develop gradually over time, making it difficult for patients to spot them early on. The very earliest signs of the condition are often firmness, tightness, pain, or asymmetry. As time goes on and the condition continues to progress, there are noticeable symptoms such as:
- Discomfort and pain in the breasts
- Asymmetry of the breasts
- Overly round or ball-shaped breasts
- Breasts that sit too high on the breast wall
- Abnormally shaped breasts
Patients who notice any signs of capsular contracture should reach out to their practitioner right away. The earlier the issue is addressed the better chance one has of overcoming it without long-term complications.
How is capsular contracture usually addressed?
Treatment options for this condition will depend on the severity of the case. In more advanced cases, breast implant removal is required in order to treat the condition. As capsular contractures can recur even after placing a new implant, some patients opt to have them removed altogether. If that is the case, patients will often need to undergo a breast lift or breast reconstruction surgery in order to restore their breasts to a more functional and aesthetically appealing position. If the case is mild, the practitioner may be able to remove a portion of the scar tissue and leave the breast implant intact. It all depends on the severity of the patient’s conditions and their wishes.
Preventing capsular contracture
This condition is a common complication of breast implant surgery, but steps can be taken to prevent it. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgery, patients should be screened for health conditions that increase the risk of complications, such as autoimmune diseases, before undergoing breast augmentation surgery. It is also crucial to choose a quality surgeon who can minimize the risk of complications. Following post-operative instructions meticulously, including breast massage, can also prevent capsular contracture.
Additionally, patients should avoid smoking and select an implant that fits their body type and lifestyle to reduce the risk of complications. By taking these precautions, patients can increase their chances of a successful breast augmentation procedure while minimizing the likelihood of developing capsular contracture.
When it comes to preventing capsular contracture and other breast augmentation complications, trust the experienced and board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Vitenas to get the job done right. With over 30 years of experience in plastic surgery, he has helped countless patients achieve their aesthetic goals while avoiding any post-surgical complications. To improve your chances of a successful breast augmentation procedure, make sure to contact Dr. Vitenas today for a consultation.