Confused About Breast Implants? 7 Facts and Tips to Consider

A plastic surgeon explains what you need to know
doctor holding different breast implants

If you’re considering breast implants — whether it’s for breast augmentation or reconstruction after a mastectomy — you may find that there’s an overwhelming amount of information out there. Knowing your options and the facts about implants can help you through the process.

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Plastic surgeon Graham Schwarz, MD shares some facts and tips about breast implants that can help you sort through all the information.

7 facts about breast implants

Before you dive into breast implant facts, it’s important to understand why women want to have breast revision surgery. It could be for any of the following reasons:

  • Desire to change the size of their breasts.
  • Pain from capsular contracture.
  • Concern about rupture or migration of an already-existing implant.
  • Change from saline to silicone, or different style of implant.

Your reasoning behind wanting breast implants can now be guided by the following facts:

1. Silicone and saline implants are both safe

Despite previous concerns, extensive research has shown that silicone implants are just as safe as saline ones.

It’s important to point out that even though the safety of implants has been proven, the risk of developing breast implanted associated lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) exists and is very low and is associated with textured implant surfaces. We recommend electing for smooth surface implants instead.

2. You can keep your implants for a long time

There’s no expiration date on your breast implants, but they are not considered lifetime devices.

“There is no convincing medical reason to routinely replace an intact implant every 10 years,” says Dr. Schwarz. “More than 80% of women don’t have any problems with implant rupture at that point.”

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“If your implant is silicone-filled, it’s recommended to have an MRI test every few years to make sure that it is intact,” he says. “If there is a rupture or leak, then the implant should be removed or replaced.”

Because manufacturers design silicone gel to stay in place after implant rupture, chances are that you may not notice if there is an issue, explains Dr. Schwarz. The Food & Drug Administration does recommend medical imaging to check the implant’s integrity beginning at five years and every two years after that.

If yours ruptures, replacement is recommended. If your saline implant leaks, your breast size will decrease. So, you may opt to replace it for cosmetic purposes.

3. You might need additional surgery

Over time, life changes could mean that you’ll need additional breast surgeries. As you age, your anatomy alters. If you have children, your size and shape could shift, and your implant could move.

Some women may develop thicker scar tissue that starts to wrap around implants. In those cases, you might need surgery for a replacement or revision.

4. You can breastfeed with implants

Having breast implants doesn’t take away your ability to breastfeed. Women may or may not be able to successfully breastfeed depending on many factors, but there’s no evidence that breastfeeding is unsafe for you or your baby. Women who have mastectomy and implant breast reconstruction cannot breastfeed because milk ducts in the breast tissue are removed.

5. Your size options are sometimes limited

Your implants can’t always be as big as you want. The size of your rib cage, as well as the thickness and elasticity of your skin also play a role. The greater your skin’s laxity, the greater your ability to stretch and accommodate larger implants without stretch marks.

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Keep in mind, though, larger implants often require revision surgeries in the future.

6. Working with a board-certified surgeon is best

Although some cosmetic surgeons without formal plastic surgery training offer breast implant procedures, it’s better to work with a board-certified plastic surgeon.

They have extensive, rigorous training and undergo peer review. They have experience with all aspects of the surgery, even when it comes to breast implant removal. And, they’re trained to handle any complications, however rare, that might arise.

One complication post-surgery is what some women describe as having fatigue, brain fog, muscle and joint pain and even rash, referred to as “breast implant illness.” Your board-certified surgeon will assess your situation to determine if removal is the best course of action.

7. A picture can help you describe what you want

If you’re going for a certain look with implants, it’s helpful to bring a photograph that illustrates your goal when you consult with your surgeon. You might not achieve the exact result you want, but it’s a helpful starting point in the process for the surgeon to see what you’re hoping for.

Whatever your breast implant desires are, consult with your doctor to determine the best course of action.

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