Burning Question: When Do Breast Implants Need to be Replaced?

Patients often ask when do their breast implants need to be replaced? You may have heard that nothing lasts forever. As cliche as it sounds, that old maxim is true for breast implants. How often you need to replace them varies depending on the different types of breast implants and other individual factors. We hope this guide gives you an idea so you can plan. However, each situation is unique. 

The short answer is the FDA approved most saline and silicone gel implants for anywhere from 10-20 years. However, this varies by person and also by the implant. Many patients only have one or two implant replacements during their lives. The primary reasons to replace an implant are either because the implant ruptured or due to capsular contracture. If neither of these happens, you may be able to keep your implant longer. Implant age is a big factor in ruptures.

According to the Mayo Clinic, around 20 percent of people with implants will need to have theirs removed as early as eight to 10 years. So as you can see, there isn’t a firm rule like there may be with other procedures. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons states that the modern implant was designed to last about ten years, but for some patients, implants can last as long as 20 years. 

When do Breast Implants Need Replacing? Top Signs:

As mentioned, there are two main reasons to remove or replace implants. But how do you know when one occurs? Sometimes the symptoms are obvious, and other times not. Here are a few things to watch out for:

Changes in Position: Your implant or breasts may start sagging or shift in position over time. Weight gain or loss can also happen. Some women might, at that point, want a breast lift along with an implant replacement.

Changes in your needs or preferences are another reason to remove or replace implants. For example, if you originally wanted much larger breasts, but over time, your preferences changed, or you lost weight and preferred smaller-sized implants.

Capsular contracture or hardening: If you notice hardening or scar tissue in one or both breasts, that may be a sign. See your doctor and discuss your concerns. Other potential related symptoms include tenderness or pain and a sensation of tightness.

Leakage or deflation: This may be a sign of a rupture. Saline implants rupture due to a small hole or tear in the implant. The sterile salt water will leak, and your body will absorb it then naturally release it. But as the fluid leaks, the size and shape will change and appear deflated.

If a silicone implant ruptures, most of the gel sometimes remains in the implant though some may shift out. Often, there are no noticeable symptoms, which is why doctors recommend that people with silicone gel implants have them checked for leaks regularly. Sometimes there are noticeable symptoms, including:

  • Change in breast size or shape
  • An uneven appearance between the two breasts
  • Hard knots or bumps
  • Tenderness, swelling, or pain
  • A tingling sensation
  • Numbness
  • Burning

 If you notice any of these, please contact your doctor.

Implant age is the biggest determining factor in whether your implants need to be removed or replaced. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the chance of rupture increases by 1% each year the implant is in place. After a decade, The Society estimates there is still a 90% chance your implants will remain intact.

You may feel relieved to learn that ruptures are rare. An estimated 1.1% experience rupture after a primary augmentation. It varies by the procedure ranging from 1.1% to nearly 12% for revision augmentation.

Also, pay attention to any changes in sensation or appearance we haven’t mentioned. For example, someone may notice rippling in their breast skin. Rippling may be a sign the implant is wrinkled or folded. Always discuss any concerns with your doctor.

How Often Do Breast Implants Need To Be Replaced?

If your implants need to be removed, talk with a board-certified plastic surgeon about whether you may replace them or remove them. This varies depending on your health and your preferences.

If, like many women, you choose to replace them, talk about which current implant options are best for you. You may opt for the same type of implant or choose something else. Some current options include:

  • Traditional Silicone: containing silicone gel
  • Traditional Saline: containing sterile saltwater
  • Gummy Bear: a relatively newer implant option containing a thicker, more stable silicone gel
  • Structured Saline: another newer implant option containing saline and an internal structure.

In addition, this may be the right time to consider the shape of implant you want, such as round or teardrop-shaped. Also, you may have a preference between a smooth or textured implant. If you are unsure of the differences, feel free to discuss them with your surgeon.

Each type of breast implant has its own set of pros and cons that your provider can discuss with you more specifically. Depending on your aesthetic preferences and health needs, you may find one choice a better match, even if it is a different type of implant than you originally received.

When your surgeon removes your implants, they may also need to remove scar tissue and any hard or lumpy feeling breast tissue. Recovery time varies by individual since people heal at different paces. You would usually return home immediately after the procedure is done.

Once you have your new implants, be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations for regular self-checks and as well as your check-ups to monitor the condition of your implants.

Tips to Ensure the Health of Your Breasts and Implants

  • Follow your doctor’s recommendations and postoperative guidelines to get off to the right start during breast implant surgery recovery.
  • Take care of yourself and get plenty of rest.
  • Wear supportive undergarments as recommended, especially during your workouts or vigorous activity.
  • Maintain a stable weight as weight gain and loss changes the shape and size of the breasts.
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure and wear broad-spectrum sunscreen.
  • Take care of your skin and keep it moisturized.
  • Get regular mammograms and do your monthly self-examinations.

Contact us today if you are a Charlotte resident who thinks you may need to have your breast implants removed or replaced. At Charlotte Plastic Surgery, we have helped many patients through these personal choices.