Some women decide to have breast augmentation, thinking that it will be a one-and-done surgery. The reality, in some cases, is a bit more complicated. Although breast implants are safe and are long-lasting, they, like many other medical devices aren’t intended to last forever.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that breast implants aren’t “lifetime devices,” which seems to strongly imply that you might need to replace or remove yours at some point. The reality is a bit more complicated. The truth is that some women might have to replace their implants, others might decide to replace theirs without any underlying problems and still others might skate through life without ever having to worry about their implants.
Average Lifespan of Breast Implants
One number you often hear when it comes to the lifespan of breast implants is 10 years. Plenty of people interpret that to mean that breast implants last for 10 years, after which time you’ll need to replace them.
In reality, that number comes from the fact that many women do need to replace their implants after a decade. According to the FDA, about 20 percent of women have their implants removed after about 10 years.
Another source of the 10-year recommendation might be the fact that many manufacturers of implants offer a 10-year warranty on them. If an implant ruptures or is otherwise defective within the first 10 years of its life, you’ll likely be able to have it replaced free of additional charge or the manufacturer might pay for the costs associated with the replacement surgery.
While 10 years is often used as a guide, there’s no rule that says you’ll need to replace yours after a decade, unless you’ve been having problems.
How to Know If You Need to Replace Your Implants
Although you might not need to replace your implants because of their age, there are a few cases when removal or replacement is a must. In some cases, the breast implant exchange could be required because of a physical issue with the implants. In others, you might just decide that implants are no longer the right choice for you.
One major reason why women decide to replace or remove their implants is a rupture or leak in one or both of their implants. Implants can rupture for a few reasons, some of them out of your control.
For example, an injury to the breast, whether from an elbow, a football or a medical procedure, could have enough force behind it to cause an implant to burst or develop a leak. The development of scar tissue that squeezes the implant, known as capsular contracture, can also cause it to rupture.
In some instances, the way the implants are handled during surgery or during placement can make them more likely to leak or rupture. Sometimes, the rupture happens right after surgery, sometimes it can be years before a problem occurs. Examples of mishandling during surgery can include filling saline implants too much or underfilling them. If the surgeon makes an incision in the naval area and places the implants through that incision, there’s also a greater chance for rupture.
If the implant is filled with saline, it’s usually easier to see that there’s something amiss, as the effected breast will deflate.
The gel used in silicone implants won’t leak out if the implant breaks, but you might notice other signs that something is off. There might be small knots or bumps just below the skin of the breasts or one breast might look slightly smaller than others. You might also feel that the implant has ruptured. For example, you may feel some tingling or tenderness in the breasts.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Implant Removal
If there’s nothing wrong with your implants, aside from their age, should you bother with the hassle of removing or replacing them? It really depends. One of the pros of replacing your implants is that it gives you an opportunity to change the size or shape of your breasts, which might be something you want to do.
Another pro of replacement surgery is that it gives you the chance to have implants you weren’t super into removed for good.
One of the big drawbacks of implant removal is that it is a surgical procedure, so you will need to allow time for recovery after it. There’s also the cost to consider.
Although you might be able to go through life without ever having an issue with your breast implants, it’s important to keep in mind that another surgery is a possibility later on. Being an informed patient will help you be sure that you’re making the best choice for you, now and in the future.
To learn more about breast implants and the possiblity of removal or replacement, schedule a consultation with Dr. Paul Vitenas, one of the highest rated breast surgeons in Houston, Texas. Call 281-484-0088 to schedule an appointment today.