Breast implants usually sit happily inside a capsule of scar tissue your body produces after a breast augmentation.
Sometimes though, this capsule of scar tissue around the breast implant becomes too thick and tightens, causing a capsular contracture.
Capsular contracture can happen to one, or both of your breasts and at any time after a breast augmentation. It's the number one breast augmentation complication, but there are ways to repair it.
Know The Signs of Capsular Contracture
The first form of defense against capsular contracture actually happens during your breast augmentation (to read more about preventing capsular contracture check out another of my articles).
The next line of defense is awareness. If you know what to look out for you can consult with a plastic surgeon and either get reassurance, or hopefully pick up any early stage capsular contracture for your best chances of a repair.
Augmented breasts shouldn’t feel hard or uncomfortable
Yes, breast implants are made of a firmer material than the feel of natural breasts... BUT they shouldn't feel hard inside your body. If your breast implants start to feel firmer, or start to hurt, it needs investigating.
Diagnosing Capsular Contracture
Don't guess whether you've got capsular contracture, or try and figure out how bad it is! It can be very tempting to reach out in the breast augmentation community to reassure yourself if you're worried about something. And most times this is the best thing you can do as the support is just fantastic!
But, if you are worried about something which is a potential complication, by all means bounce it off your boobie sisters but also pick up the phone to your plastic surgeon.
Your plastic surgeon has got the skills to pay the bills and, at any time, their expertise should be at your disposal to help you weather any concerns.
Know The Capsular Contracture Solutions
I’m a positive person. And I approached every part of my breast implant surgeries with a positive attitude. But, I also had a solid dose of realism. As in: what could go wrong.
You need to know what the complications are regarding breast augmentations so you can make an informed decision that, for you, any benefits outweigh the potential risks.
And, likewise, you should know what the remedies are if complications occur.
Because there are different 'grades' of capsular contracture there are different treatments depending on how serious the capsular contracture is.
Grade 1 - breast is soft and normal in size and shape.
Grade 2 - breast is a little firm but is normal in size and shape.
Grade 3 - breast is firm and size or shape is distorted.
Grade 4 - breast is hard, tender, painful, and size or shape distortion is severe.
Treating Capsular Contracture
Breast surgery is the 'gold standard' (meaning it's the accepted best) treatment for capsular contracture. But, if it is picked up early there are some medications that have been shown to dramatically soften capsular contracture scar tissue.
There are a couple of medications that can be tried and if surgery is needed later on, and these meds are used after surgery they can decrease the chances of capsular contracture recurring.
If you’re in this position it’s best to ask your plastic surgeon what drugs they prescribe (and why) as there are a couple of options (and obviously side effects to weigh up).
Some plastic surgeons also believe massage can help prevent capsular contracture and, in early stage capsular contracture, soften scar tissue. However, there is no proof that it helps either way, so only massage if your plastic surgeon advises it.
If medications don't work, the only other effective treatment for capsular contracture is to completely remove the capsule of scar tissue surrounding the implant. This means a revision surgery.
We don't really know what causes capsular contracture or when/if it will occur. And, because of this, it's not surprising that most women fear this breast augmentation complication the most.
However, the earlier a capsular contracture is picked up by your plastic surgeon the more options for treatment you have.
And... like everything in the medical field, new technologies are being developed all the time so these treatments over time should become more effective and your relationship with your breasts implants should be a long and happy one. :)
Thoughts from Dr. Ben WoodFortunately, capsular contracture is a relatively rare event. Despite decades of research, there hasn't been a clear explanation for why some women tend to develop it, but we have learned a lot ways to help reduce the risk.
Things like using a funnel to place the implant with a 'touchless' technique, antibiotic wash, and meticulous surgical technique have helped reduce the chance that it would happen significantly.
If it does happen though, it can sometime be treated with medication alone, and if that's not effective, the capsule can be removed and a new implant placed without impacting your results long-term.