Breast implants are a safe and reliable way to enhance the size, shape, and projection of the breasts. That being said, breast implants do not come without the risk of complications.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of women choose to augment their breasts through the use of saline or silicone breast implants, and many of these women will have to undergo revision surgery at some point in their lifetime. Why is this? For starters, while breast implants are long lasting, they are not designed to last forever. Like everything else, implants break down over time and eventually need to be replaced. This time frame can be ten years for some women and twenty years for others. There is no way to know exactly how long your implants will last. Other complications that can arise from breast implants include:
Both saline and silicone implants come with a risk of rupture. A rupture occurs when the silicone shell of a saline or silicone implant is damaged and tears open, allowing the inner contents of the implant to leak into the body. Implant rupture can occur when there is increased pressure on the implant, such as trauma from a car accident, or it can happen as the materials naturally break down over time—“wear and tear”. Saline ruptures are often very easy to identify and diagnose. When a saline implant tears, the saline solution easily escapes and you will notice an almost immediate deflation of the implant. Silicone ruptures are often considered to be “silent” because they can occur long before you realize that anything has happened. The gel that fills a silicone implant is cohesive, meaning that it will maintain its shape for a while after a rupture of the shell. The silicone gel inside these newer “gummy bear” implants will be safely contained within the capsule and will not get into the surrounding tissues. Many years ago, the gel was more of a liquid consistency and this older type of implant presented more challenges when removing any silicone that may have escaped. Subsequently, patients with silicone implants should have an MRI after three years and then every two years after that to check the health of the implants.
Scar tissue begins to form around the implant as soon as it is added to the body. While this scar tissue is harmless, some women end up suffering a condition known as capsular contracture. Capsular contracture occurs when scar tissue starts to contract around the implant, putting an excessive amount of pressure on it. The tightening of the tissue not only deforms and hardens the shape and feel of the implant but can also cause physical pain.
Implants are placed into a pocket prepared by your surgeon. Once inserted, breast implants are expected to remain within that space. Unfortunately, breast implants have been known to escape their pocket from time to time. Implants can move upward, drop downward, or shift from side to side, creating an unnatural appearance. This is more likely to happen when the implants are placed under the muscle due to the force placed upon the implant when your chest muscles are forcefully contracted (i.e., lifting weights).
Breast Revision Surgery
Unfortunately, these complications can occur without any previous injury or damage to the implant, and when they do happen, there is only one way to fix it: revision surgery. Breast revision surgery is the process of removing the damaged implant and replacing it with a new, healthy one. Additionally, scar tissue may need to be released or removed and/or the breast pocket may need to be tightened if your implants have stretched out of place.