The Lifespan of a Breast Implant
When you are considering a breast augmentation and start looking at all the information regarding breast implants on the internet it can be overwhelming trying to sort out the truth from the misinformation. A common question asked is, “how long do breast implants last?”
This can be a difficult question to answer and indeed you find varying answers on the web. Every patient is different and depending on the implants, your surgeon and you; it can vary. There seems to be a lot of reports that they only last approximately 10 years but in reality most implants last a lot longer. Dr Gavin Sandercoe, Specialist Plastic Surgeon from Bella Vista in NSW says, “Until a few years ago, patients may have been led to believe that breast implants would last a life time. In a response to this criticism, breast implant manufacturers have begun to be more proactive in informing patients that any implanted device should not be considered a lifetime device.
Most reputable manufacturers suggest that ten years should be the time until consideration prior to implant assessment, and sometimes replacement. This is based on the CORE studies that report an incidence of up to 20% of any problem with an implant in the first 10 years. Some implants may only last a few years, and occasionally implants can indeed last a lifetime. There is a wide spectrum of length of life of any breast implant”
It is estimated that saline implant deflation is around 1% at one year and 3% at 3 years. If this rate holds true over time, it is estimated that 1 out of every 10 (10%) patients will experience deflation in the first 10 years following a saline-filled implant augmentation.
So at 10 years, the risk of having any problem with your implants (saline or silicone) is between 10-20%. The problems more likely with saline implants are different to silicone implants – neither is better or worse.
So, how do you tell if your implants need replacing?
There are several reasons why breast implants may require replacing. Some of these are:
- Deflation (saline)
- Capsular contraction (hardening of the thin film of scar tissue around the implant)
- Breast sagging, also called “ptosis”. This is usually from the breast aging over the top of the implant.
- Calcium build-up in breast tissue, also called “calcification”
- Extrusion—when the skin breaks down and the implant appears through the skin
- Seroma—the collection of fluid around the breast implant.
Are Silicone implants more likely to rupture than Saline implants?
Neither one nor the other is more likely to rupture. This is because the outer shell of both is made with identical material, and it is this shell that breaks or ruptures. However, if a saline implant ruptures it can be easier to tell because the saline that was filling the implant is absorbed into your body, and the implant (and breast) deflates. Silicone, on the other hand, is a foreign material and will not be absorbed; so it usually stays within the capsule. Many patients do not have any symptoms of breast implant rupture, but some may have new breast pain/tenderness or redness and swelling.
If you are at all concerned you should arrange to see your doctor or surgeon, and arrange for some imaging of your implants. Ultrasound is a reasonable starting point, but is not 100% sensitive. MRI is more expensive, less easy to obtain and has some radiation (like an X-Ray). However, MRI provides much more information about your breast, the implant and the capsule.
The US FDA suggests an MRI every few years for women with breast implants. Most Australian Specialist Plastic Surgeons believe that this is an overkill, and suggest imaging only if there are concerns. If you have signs such as breast pain or distortions do you should arrange an appointment with your surgeon so they can make sure everything is fine through a physical examination and imaging.
Dr Sandercoe tells his patients:
“Breast implants are like owning a car. A well made car is like good surgery, and sets you up for a long period of time with good implants and breast shape. Regular maintenance helps you keep things running well. For ladies with breast implants, this means using antibiotics early when they get any infection or have and procedures that may cause a bacterial shower in the bloodstream.
Attending to any problem early helps ensure that small issues do not become big issues. You cannot prevent things that are out of your control, so patients need to accept these risks. In the car analogy, you can’t always prevent your car getting damaged by a hailstorm. With implants, this can be seen as the late ruptures or late capsular contracture”
The major implant manufacturers (seek out FDA approved implants) provide a lifetime warranty against implant rupture, and some implant manufacturers have extended coverage for other implant problems. This covers the cost of replacement implants and assists in the surgical costs associated with implant replacement.
See this article for more information on breast implants, or if you would like to arrange a consult with Dr Gavin Sandercoe you can see his directory listing here where you can send an email, or phone his clinic directly on 1300 112 358.