When Less is More. Are you considering removal of your breast implants? We take a look at the various reasons patients might desire an ‘explant’ and the different options available in each circumstance.
It’s actually a myth that breast implants must be removed after 10 years; they do not have expiration dates. The risk of rupture is higher as implants age (although new models are more robust), however their integrity can be checked without removal.
For saline implants, failure is quite obvious when it occurs, since the saline solution is quickly absorbed by the body and the 'deflated' side immediately looks smaller than the intact side. Silicone implant rupture is harder to detect as the gel material is not absorbed by the body, consequently the appearance and feel of the implant does not change. However, rupture can be detected with a mammogram or MRI scan.
Regardless of how long you have had your implants, if they are intact and are not causing you any problems, it is not necessary to have them removed or renewed. If you are worried, a surgeon can conduct a physical examination of your breasts and refer you for a scan.
Over time, some patients may start to experience problems with their implants hardening or becoming misshapen. This is due to excess scar tissue which forms around the implant, squeezing and compressing it. As well as affecting the look and feel of the breast it can also cause discomfort and pain. Capsular contracture can occur in just one or both breasts.
In order to correct capsular contracture, the ‘capsule’ which has formed over the implant must be removed. However, removal does not eliminate the possibility of future scar tissue forming. After removal, the old implant can be reinserted or you may choose to have both implants replaced with new ones.
Implantation under the muscle reduces the risk of contracture to between 4-8% over your lifetime. If your implants are currently placed subglandular, having new implants placed submuscular could represent an alternative to complete removal.
If you do opt for removal, you may require a breast uplift (mastopexy) to deal with stretched skin. Another option is using fat, taken from elsewhere on your body, to replace the lost volume. Using a patient’s own fat ensures it will not be rejected by the body and can be the ideal solution for those experiencing issues with capsular contracture, however good candidates for this treatment must have sufficient donor fat available.
If you have gained weight since having your implants, your breasts may now be larger than originally desired, possibly causing you physical discomfort. On the other hand, you may have have lost weight causing your implants to look overlarge on your now smaller frame.
It’s important to understand that simply removing your implants might not give you the smaller breasts you want. You may be left with flat, sagging breasts and should therefore discuss options such as a breast lift or augmentation with smaller implants with your surgeon in order to achieve the look you desire.
Another possibility worth considering is fat transplant. This technique can be used to give you smaller but still full breasts. This can be carried out in conjunction with an uplift, if necessary.
Many people elect to have their breast implants removed at some point in their lives. Removal is relatively straightforward and can be carried out via the existing scar. Nice aesthetic outcomes are possible after implant removal, with the stretched skin and tissue gradually rebounding over six to 12 months (although the body’s capacity for restoration differs from person to person).
The end result will depend on how much breast tissue you had to start with, the size of your implants, your skin quality and your age. Your surgeon can advise if a preemptive breast lift is recommended, or alternatively you can wait to see your results and return at a later date for secondary surgery.
Using your own fat to replace the volume in your breasts after implant removal is another option. Using like for like is a natural way to enhance your breasts and comes without the worry of having anything man made in your body.