Breast augmentation surgery is the second most popular cosmetic procedure in the US. Breast implants can help women of all ages gain more confidence and achieve the look—and the silhouette—that they’ve always dreamed of.
However, no breast implant will last forever. For some women, they may last less than 10 years. For others, they can last for 25 years or more. To get the most out of your new implants, here are some things you should know about breast implant maintenance.
When to replace implants
Implants may need to be replaced for a variety of reasons. When it comes to saline implants, for example, a replacement should take place once the implants start to deflate. Older silicone implants should also be replaced when they begin to harden or if a rupture has occurred.
In addition, capsular contracture—when the scar tissue capsule around the implants shrink and squeeze the implants—may also require replacement. This results in hardened breasts.
The rupture rate and capsular contracture rate in silicone implants are both low, but it’s important to be on the lookout for them.
Type of implants that require replacements
After a long time, generally 20 to 25 years, saline implants will almost always leak. Thus, these types of implants tend to require replacements more often than silicone.
Follow-up visits with your plastic surgeon
Though breast implants are fairly low maintenance, it’s recommended that women monitor their breasts after surgery and have regular follow-up visits with their surgeon to catch any problems that may occur early on. Ideally, you would return for a follow-up visit with your plastic surgeon once a year for the entirety of the lifetime of your breast implants.
Ruptures can be difficult to detect. It’s recommended by the FDA that women who have undergone breast augmentation surgery start getting MRI studies approximately three years after implantation. An MRI can help determine the integrity of your implants and identify problems that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Annual breast exams
Few women visit their plastic surgeons for their regular follow-ups after implantation. Many simply want to go on with their lives and others do not want to pay for MRIs. Whether or not you choose to see your surgeon every year after surgery, it’s critical that you at least get an annual breast exam. For women over 45, annual breast cancer screening studies, such as serial mammograms, should also take place.
Catching the problem early may help you avoid a replacement
It’s important to note that regular monitoring of your breasts can help keep your implants as healthy as possible—and potentially help you avoid having to get replacements at all. This is a key reason for keeping up with your follow-up visits with your plastic surgeon.
If a problem is identified early on, your surgeon may be able to use non-surgical means to fix it. Unfortunately, many women do not notice gradual hardening of their breast implants until it’s too late and the situation required replacement. Bottoming out—when the implants slip lower on the chest—is another issue that can be fixed through non-surgical means if caught early.
When to leave your implants alone
Many women believe that once they’ve had their implants for 10, 20, or 25 years, they should have them replaced for good measure. Even if you’ve had your implants for decades, however, plastic surgeons recommend not replacing them if there are no problems. That is, however, unless you have a desire for a size change.
Regular breast implant maintenance is critical to the health of your breasts and your implants.