Surgery (any surgery) is not without its risk of certain complications. While it is accepted that some women can live with their breast implants for many years the general wisdom is that breast implants are not lifetime devices. So, the longer you have your breast implants, the more likely it will be for you to develop complications, some of which will require additional surgery.
We’ll dive in gently... don’t scare yourself but it’s important to be informed.
Ok, here we go.
I will start by acknowledging that complications can be scary... but you should definitely be informed about the risks of any surgery to know what to look out for.
Breast implants aren’t 100% risk-free — your surgeon should tell you about these possible complications.
The 2 most common types of breast implant complications are capsular contracture and ruptures.
Our bodies actually treat breast implants as ‘foreign bodies’. Your body’s natural response to breast implants is to create a wall of scar tissue around them. This is completely normal. A capsule of scar tissue that forms in the first 3-4 weeks after surgery actually holds your implant in place.
If the scar tissue in the capsule around your implant (the ‘capsular’ bit) builds up too much it tightens and squeezes (the ‘contracture’ bit) your breast implant.
Thick capsule scarring acts like a boa constrictor to your boob basically! This is what capsular contracture is. The tightened scar tissue can cause the breasts to harden, look or feel different and may even cause you pain or discomfort.
It can occur in one or both breasts. Although it’s a common complication it’s also unpredictable and we don’t know what exactly causes it. There are greater risks of capsular contracture if:
Your breast implants rupture
You have a post-op infection
You have breast implants placed over the muscle
The main sign of capsular contracture is increased breast firmness. If at any point you’re worried about changes to your breast implants always consult with your surgeon.
There are four ‘grades’ of capsular contracture. The first two grades (1 & 2) may be treated with medication (which work about 50% of the time) and the higher grades (3 & 4) are treated with surgery, which involves removing the breast implant(s) and the excess scar tissue. You can choose to have new breast implants put back in straight away but capsular contracture can reoccur.
Implant rupture or deflation
Implants these days have an excellent safety record. There is about a 1 in 10 risk of your breast implant developing a hole or tear in the outer shell. I feel like that risk increases as the breast implant gets older too.
If a saline implant ruptures it’s very easy to detect as the breast implant will deflate like a water balloon emptying and a change in the size and shape of the breast will be noticed immediately.
If a silicone gel breast implant ruptures it’s often without any symptoms (this is called a silent rupture). The newer silicone gel implants are ‘cohesive’ and are designed not to leak. As most silicone breast implant ruptures are silent, the FDA recommends women with silicone gel implants have an MRI three years after they get breast implants and then every two years after that.
Breast implant ruptures are most commonly caused by:
A defective breast implant (and that’s just bad luck)
Trauma to the breast
Aging implants (the older they are, the more likely they are to rupture)
Regardless of whether the breast implant is saline or silicone, it is recommended that the affected breast implant (or implants) be replaced.
There are several important things to consider before deciding to undergo a breast augmentation, including understanding your own personal expectations and reasons for having the surgery. Getting to grips with the potential complications and being okay with them before you book your surgery is crucial.