How long can I expect the implants to last?

It is reasonable to expect that your breast shape will change over time – and in time, you may not suit the implant, or it may not suit you. A 20 year old breast looks often very different to the same breast of a 30 year old. You need to look at breast augmentation as possibly needing “maintenance” procedures during your life. If you are not prepared for this, you should not undergo the surgery in the first place.

What makes implants rupture? And how can I tell?

Implants rupture because there are folds that develop in implants and the “point” of the fold wears away and the contents can leak out. Think of how your blue jeans wear away at the bottom – everywhere there is a little fold, the material starts to fray, and if the implant is filled with saline, you will deflate over hours or days. If that is the case, just call the office and we will make arrangements to replace the implant as soon as possible.

If you have silicone gel implants, the rupture may go unnoticed. If the leaking gel stays inside the capsule, then sometimes the only clue is that the capsule starts to tighten more – perhaps after years of being relatively soft. The only way of accurately deciding if an implant is leaking is to operate and look. I’ve never been completely comfortable in relying on tests such as ultrasound or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to determine a leak. There is no rush to replace gel implants unless there is evidence that the gel has leaked outside the capsule. If this happens, a lump will develop where the body’s defence mechanisms respond to the gel, called granuloma. This lump is not dangerous to you, but it’s discovery may be threatening to you till you can be sure it is not a cancer.

Remember that implants don’t leak because someone is rough with you or because you are hit by a basketball or you are involved in a car accident. They rupture because of wear and tear of the silicone envelope.

How long can I expect them to last?

The standard answer a year or so ago was about 10 years. However, the recent information is more positive. Evidence shows that the risk of an individual saline rupturing in 10 years is only 4%. But some will last longer and some will rupture sooner. You do not need to automatically replace them in 10 years.

If there are medical problems, such as an infection after the surgery (where the implant needs to be removed, the infection should be allowed to settle and the implant then replaced at a later date), some health insurance plans will cover the complications. This is not clear-cut and you need to be aware that, in the future, you may be responsible for the costs of new implants, the cost of an anaesthetist, and the costs of the operating room.

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