Breast implantation has changed with the evolution of surgical procedures and prosthetic materials. Despite the latter, breast implants remain a prefabricated product that decays over time. It is therefore evident to replace implants after having recourse to breast augmentation surgery. The latter usually depends on implant duration and circumstances.
How long do breast implants last?
There is no specific duration on how long breast implants can last, but their replacement usually happens after ten years; which corresponds to the duration of insurance cover.
Bearing the latter in mind, surgeons recommend post-surgical follow-up to decide on when implant replacement should occur. The patient will be therefore informed of her implants’ status and reminded of their replacement.
Implant replacement and implant placement are performed similarly and both generally leave the same post-surgical scars. The patient shall either request implants identical to hers or ones that are slightly more voluminous; therefore requiring a slight augmentation of prosthetics. In case the patient suffers from breast ptosis, breast lift surgery could be considered in conjunction with implant replacement. The latter is quite normal following the patient’s morphological development and breast maturation after ten years.
Replacing implants depends on their position and the degree of breast ptosis. If the latter is moderate, replacement will be performed through the former incision and the new prosthesis will be placed in front of the pectoral muscle to give way for breast lift surgery. Alternatively, if the patient suffers from severe breast ptosis, lifting will be performed first; therefore, post-surgical scars will be different and implant replacement will be done at last.
The early replacement of breast implants
There are different cases that require an early replacement of breast implants.
First, it is important to note that breast implants represent a foreign material to the body. Indeed, the human body can possibly react to implant placement by creating a fibrous capsule, which isolates the prosthesis from surrounding tissues; this is known as capsular contracture.
This phenomenon is normal and hardly noticeable for women with breast implants. Nevertheless, capsular contracture can develop over time and lead to the deformation or hardening of the breasts. Capsular contracture is indeed uncommon; only three to five percent of women with breast implants experience it.
Plastic surgeons generally have recourse to sub-glandular implant placement to diminish the risks of capsular contracture.
Today, with the use of modern implants made of cohesive silicone gel and advanced breast augmentation procedures, resulting risks of capsular contracture are rare. It is however possible that women who carry older models of breast implants suffer from this phenomenon. The incision, in this case, is generally periareolar; permitting the removal of prostheses, capsulotomy, capsulectomy, cleaning and implant placement (usually identical to the former implants). Mammoplasty can be considered in conjunction with the latter for purely aesthetic purposes.
Capsular contracture could be the result of implant rupture. If the ruptured prosthesis is filled with saline solution, the emergency will be mainly aesthetic.
In case breast implants were recently placed, the surgeon may simply replace the ruptured prosthesis. However, if the implant is old, it is recommended to replace both prostheses for a better-looking outcome (using modern implant models).
If the rupture concerns a silicone-based prosthesis, surgical intervention is needed as soon as possible. Like saline-based implants, replacement of one or two implants should be done according to the implants’ age. An axillary incision is performed to permit easier access in removing gel, cleaning and replacing defective implants. The choice of the latter will depend on the approach and the necessity of a larger access. In this case, a radiological examination can be quite relevant in determining the appropriate approach.
It is nearly impossible to standardize the procedure of breast implant replacement as the latter depends on the approach, the surgeon, the implant, the patient, and their lifestyle. Nevertheless, it is important to be alert of continuous medical follow-up and the eventuality of implant replacement in a period of ten years or so. During this period, the patient should also report any changes to the texture of shape of prostheses. In case of extreme reactions, which happen to be rare, implants could be replaced as the procedure is quite reversible and post-operative care is easy.