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Breast Implant Replacement: The True Lifespan of Saline and Silicone
breast implant
Aug 22, 2018

It’s often said that breast implants should be replaced every decade. In fact, a 2011 report published by the FDA stated that 20% of women with silicone breast implants underwent surgery to have them replaced after ten years. Other studies state that the chances of a rupture increase by approximately 1% every year after the initial breast augmentation.

Do implants have an expiry date? Here’s what you need to know about the lifespan of silicone and saline.

breast implant

Do breast implants need to be replaced?

The short answer to this question is that breast implants don’t need to be replaced unless a specific problem arises. You may also wish to have them changed for a different size — or removed altogether — for purely aesthetic reasons.

To put it another way, just because your implants are ten years old does not mean that they need to be replaced.

However, there is a caveat: while breast implants tend to last longer than ten years for the majority of people, it is important not to think of them as “lifetime devices.” This word of caution comes directly from the FDA — the likelihood of rupture and complications increases as the years go by.

How often do breast implants need to be replaced?

On average, most implants last anywhere from 10 to 20 years. Silicone implants tend to last longer — generally between 15 and 20 years.

In fact, a study published in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal found only 11.8% of silicone breast implants were ruptured after 13 years.

It should also be noted that today’s implants are more reliable than those that were used several decades ago. They are designed to withstand time, and hypothetically could last for as long as 30 years. Generally speaking, the newer your implants, the less likely it is that they will rupture.

Tears in the implant shell are highly unlikely in the first years, although they tend to increase in silicone implants after 6 to 8 years of use. On the whole, the lifespan of breast implants differs on an individual basis, which is why it so difficult for plastic surgeons to determine when your particular implants will be need to be replaced.

How will I know if my implants need replacing?

The answer to this question depends on your specific type of implants — saline or silicone.

Ruptures cause saline implants to deflate. As such, the problem becomes quite obvious because the breasts no longer look symmetrical. While this may sound alarming, bear in mind that saline is non-toxic and quite harmless — your body will simply absorb it. However, a rupture will cause the implant to collapse (at least partially).

With silicone implants, however, it is much more difficult to determine if a rupture has occurred because there may only be a moderate change in your breasts (for example, a decrease in breast size, change in the shape of the implant, or hard lumps over the implant).

In some cases, everything may look completely normal, which is why they are called “silent ruptures.”

The problem with silent ruptures is that the silicone gel can move to other parts of the body and cause lumps to form in the breast or in other tissue. However, silicone implants have been studied very closely and an entire body of literature continues to show that there are no health risks in such cases.

How often should breast implants be checked?

Although silicone implants don’t pose any health risks in the event that they rupture, it’s still recommended that you have an MRI three years after you first get them. This will determine if a leak has occurred. You should also have an MRI every two years after the first initial check. Again, this is according to the FDA.

It’s important to note that the most common reason why people undergo revision surgery is simply because they want a different breast size. Breasts can change after both weight loss and pregnancy.

Finally, you may need to replace your implants if you suffer from capsular contracture, a complication which can cause discomfort or pain, firmness of the breast and changes in its shape. You may also need to have your implants replaced if you notice visible rippling.

breast surgery

RELATED: What Causes Breast Implant Rippling?

What does breast implant replacement surgery entail?

Breast implants are safe, even in the event that they rupture. In the event that this occurs, implant replacement surgery is a straightforward procedure with almost no downtime. In fact, the majority of people resume their regular routine in just a few short days after surgery.

The procedure simply involves opening up the original incision, removing the implant, washing the pocket with an antibiotic solution, and inserting a new implant.

The takeaway

Today’s generation of breast implants are designed to last, and while you will need to replace them at least once in your lifetime, they do not need be replaced every ten years unless there is a specific problem.

For more information on breast implant replacement or revision surgery, contact The Breslow Center in Paramus, New Jersey today!

About the Author

Dr. Gary Breslow, MD, FACS

Dr. Gary Breslow, MD, FACS

Is a highly regarded plastic surgeon in Paramus New Jersey, known by both patients and peers as a problem-solver with a warm, engaging personality, and an instinctive ability to identify and truly understand the goals of his patients and the patients, themselves. Dr. Breslow has dedicated his efforts to providing results of only the most unsurpassed quality, continually staying abreast of the most advanced techniques in cosmetic surgery for the benefit of his patients. Dr. Breslow is Board-Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and is licensed to practice plastic & reconstructive surgery in both New Jersey and New York.

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