What are the early signs of capsular contracture?

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?

While it is a rare condition, capsular contracture can sometimes occur after a patient undergoes a breast augmentation with implants. 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. 

Symptoms of the condition usually become noticeable anywhere from a few months to two years following the procedure. 

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 comes with symptoms that 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, patients may notice symptoms such as:

  • Discomfort and pain in the breasts 
  • Asymmetry of the breasts 
  • Firmness
  • Tightness
  • 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 for capsular contracture 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. 

What is the takeaway?

Capsular contracture is a progressive condition that is often difficult to recognize early on. Patients who experience chronic tightness or pain in the chest should take these signs seriously and reach out to their practitioner as soon as possible. It is highly recommended that patients refer to a well-revered surgeon to carry out their procedure.