Do breast implants come with an expiry date?
Breast implant replacements
Helpful information for patients
If you’re considering having implants, or if you already have them, you shouldn’t assume those implants will last a lifetime. Read on to find out if breast implants need to be replaced.
How long will implants last?
It’s impossible to predict how long any individual breast implants will last – because every patient is different.
To give you some idea, based on existing statistics, if a hundred women had breast implants on the same day, within one year, five of these women would have to return to theatre to have their implants exchanged for one reason or another.
Of the 100, after the first year, one to two women each year will need to have their implants changed.
By ten years after their operation, about twenty women will have had to have their breast implants changed, whilst 80 women should still be having no problems with their implants.
There is no truth in the myth that implants need to be changed every ten years. Personally, I have changed implants for women who have had them in for 30 years, 40 years, 45 years and – the longest I have changed – 47 years after surgery.
Why do implants need changing?
The commonest reasons for implants to be exchanged and replaced in the first 12 months after surgery are:
- Early capsular contracture
- Overwhelming infection
- Poor positioning of the implants
Capsular contracture – When a breast implant is inserted into the breast, the body forms a flimsy wall of scar around the implant known as a ‘capsule’. All women with silicone breast implants have a capsule and in most cases, it remains soft and doesn’t cause any problems. Occasionally, however, this can thicken and shrink around the implant, resulting in something called a ‘capsular contracture’.
The only option to correct this condition is to remove both the wall of scar (the capsule) and the old implant and then deal with the empty breast.
Read more about capsular contracture
Overwhelming infection – This is a medical term to describe an infection that cannot be effectively treated using antibiotics. It’s rare but in cases like this, the patient will have to return to theatre to have the implant removed and the infection treated. Whilst it may be possible to introduce a new implant at some point, this cannot be done until the infection has been successfully treated and all traces of infection eradicated.
Poor positioning of the implants – Implants that are not positioned correctly in a patient are one of the most common causes of implant removal and replacement.
- An implant this is placed too high will show as a bulge in the upper part of the beast and the nipple will point down.
- If an implant is placed too low, the upper part of the breast will look empty and the nipple will point upwards.
- Implants positioned too close together can make the breasts look as if they are joined together.
- Implants placed too far apart will mean the patient has no cleavage and the nipples may tip inwards.
Whatever the specific problem, the patient will need to return to theatre to have their breast implants replaced under surgery.
Other common reasons for implants to be removed include implant rupture and elective removal / change of size. I will talk about these situations in a separate blog post.
How will I know if my implants need replacing?
You will know if your implants need to be replaced, because one or other breast will start to play up in some way.
If your implants are still soft, are a good shape and you’re not in any pain, there is absolutely no reason to change your implants.
However, if a breast starts to become hard, or changes shape, or becomes painful in any way, you should revisit your plastic surgeon to discuss what to do.
There is some misunderstanding around the ‘lifetime guarantee’ of implants. Implant manufacturers ‘warrant’ their implants for life. This doesn’t mean those implants will last you a lifetime. It means the manufacturer will provide you with a replacement implant, free of charge.
However, you will still have to cover the costs of the surgeon, the anaesthetist and the hospital for replacement.
Implant surgery best practice
Obviously, choosing a reputable and experienced surgeon will vastly reduce the chances of any such problems affecting you.
A qualified surgeon who has years of experience and who takes the time to discuss every aspect of the surgery with you before you make any decision, will never encourage you to make a decision under pressure and will talk through potential complications as part of the consultation process.
If you’re thinking about having breast surgery, get in touch with my friendly team:
Signs of breast implant problems ( recent article from Mr Sterne)
Mr Guy D. Sterne
MB, ChB, FRCS, MD, FRCS (Plast)
Consultant Plastic Surgeon