Breast Implant Exchange Recovery: What to Expect


If you are planning to have your breast implants changed, you may wonder what to expect during breast implant exchange recovery. Breast implants simply don’t last forever; at some point, you may need to exchange them or have them removed either due to the implant’s age or for a variety of other reasons.

Planning for implant exchange involves picking the right time when you can take time off work to heal. It helps to better understand during and after the breast implant exchange process. First, it helps to refresh on the basics. Keep in mind this article is to help you prepare for a consultation with your plastic surgeon; it isn’t a substitute for medical care.

What is Breast Implant Exchange?

A breast implant exchange is a surgical procedure where a plastic surgeon removes old or damaged breast implants and replaces them with new implants.

Breast implant exchange refers to an operation removing existing implants and then replacing them with new implants. Reasons for breast implant exchange include:

  • A rupture or tear in one of the implants
  • Adverse reaction to existing implants or new health concerns
  • A desire to switch from silicone to saline implants (or the other way around)
  • Capsular contracture or a buildup of scar tissue around the implant site
  • Implant shifts or malposition
  • Change in personal preferences or aesthetics
  • To accommodate changes in the body due to prior pregnancy, menopause, weight gain or loss

If you need to exchange your implants due to medical issues caused by a ruptured implant, you may not have much time to plan. However, if you are changing implants due to personal preference, you may be able to plan based on convenience for your family and work commitments.

What to Expect During Breast Implant Exchange

The implant exchange is a surgical procedure that may take anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple of hours. You will be under a general or local anesthetic for your comfort. This may vary depending on the specific exchange you are making.

Often, a plastic surgeon can use the same incision area for the implant exchange that was originally used for the initial breast augmentation operation. During your consultation, your surgeon should discuss this with you, as well as whether you would likely need additional interventions like a breast lift or nipple relocation at the same time. 

There are many factors, including the age and elasticity of your skin, the health of surrounding tissues, whether you are changing the size or shape of your breasts, and why you are getting the implant exchanged.

Preparing for Healing and Recovery After Breast Implant Exchange

With any planned surgery, you can pave the way for a smoother recovery by planning for it. Your plastic surgeon will require that you wear a surgical bra or compression garment for the first few weeks following your operation. Take the opportunity to clear your garments with your plastic surgeon so you have something suitable waiting.

You will likely experience pain and swelling during the first few weeks as well. Your surgeon may prescribe medicine or recommend over-the-counter medications for your comfort and well-being. If possible, arrange to fill those prescriptions or pick up the medications so you have them on hand when you get home.

After surgery, you will need to eat bland, mild soft foods. Be sure to go grocery shopping and stock up on foods like this that are easy to prepare. If you don’t have someone planning to cook for you in your home, you may want to batch-cook and freeze meals for yourself and your family.

Changes are you will want to sleep when you get home from your operation as you will probably still be affected by the anesthetic. Once you wake up, you may want relaxing activities to keep you from feeling bored. You could update your Netflix or Hulu queue, download a few episodes of your favorite podcast, or even set up a few Spotify playlists. Your phone or tablet likely has e-book apps, and your local library may be a good source of e-books to read while you relax.

If you usually care for children, elders, sick people, or pets, arrange for backup to cover their care during the first few days and handle any physically demanding tasks until you are cleared to resume your regular activities.

Navigating the Recovery Process

The recovery and healing process will take several weeks, but if you have a desk job, you may be able to return to work after a week. Talk with your surgeon about the specifics of your situation. Do your research on how to select a plastic surgeon

Early on, drink plenty of fluids to help your body flush out the anesthetics. Staying hydrated also helps with healing as the swelling and inflammation go down. Eat gentle but nourishing foods to maintain your strength as you heal. You may not want or need as much food, but a “little and often” approach often works until you regain your appetite and resume your normal activity level.

You may wonder about scars. Even though your surgeon may use the prior incision as a guide, scars are prominent for six months but will fade as time passes. The swelling and bruising may also last for a few weeks. Be gentle and patient with yourself as you heal.

As mentioned, your surgeon will instruct you to wear a surgical bra all day and night for around three weeks after the procedure. Also, be sure to avoid vigorous exercise, physical work, or exertion for at least six weeks until your doctor clears you to return to these activities.

Your doctor will likely recommend follow-up appointments to check in on your healing progress and monitor for signs of possible complications. Be sure to adhere to this schedule, as it will vary depending on the procedure and your health.

If you live in the Charlotte area and are considering a breast implant exchange for any reason, we hope you will think of Charlotte Plastic Surgery. Don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule your consultation.