One of the most common questions regarding breast implants is when—or if—they will need to be replaced. It’s a valid concern that many prospective patients have, as the cost of replacement can be as much as the initial surgery.
You’ve probably already heard the rumor that implants only last ten years before they need replacement. This can cause many women to rethink getting the breast surgery that they want due to costs and the uncertainty of what will happen in the future.
We’re going to look whether or not that is true, the average lifespan of implants, and signs that they will need to be replaced.
What is the Average Breast Implant Lifespan?
The misnomer that breast implants need to be replaced every 10 years comes from older implant generations from the 70s and 80s. The in-walls of the implants form this period were all either leaking or ruptured by 10 years.
There are three FDA approved manufacturers in the United States – Allergan, Mentor and Sientra. In the Premarket Approval (PMA) trials for these manufacturers the implant failure rates were much lower today, given the long-term data. So in reality, for most women that have an implant that is 15 years old, there is an 85% chance that it is still completely iintact and only a 15% or less chance that it is leaking or has a shell tear.
Why Would Implants Require Replacement?
If a breast implant needs to be replaced, it’s often due to complications that can cause a change in the shape of the breast or medical issues. Here are a few reasons why many women are required to undergo a second surgery at some point in the future:
Rupture and Leakage
This is most often due to a leak in the valve area or hole inside the implant. As the body harmlessly absorbs the saline solution, the implant deflates and causes a noticeable change in the size, shape, and appearance of the breast.
Natural Changes in Shape
Sometimes, women will gain or lose weight over time. This can cause the implant to shift from its original position and that could change the look or shape of the breast.
In the immediate weeks and months following breast implant surgery, the human body will form a protective scar around the implant. This is referred to as a “capsule” and is often soft and gives the implant that natural feel.
For some women, the scar can thicken, harden, and start to contract the implant. This sometimes causes the implant to lift up on the chest wall, which can cause physical discomfort and an unnatural appearance.
Implants can sometimes move slightly in a different direction from where they were originally placed. The movement isn’t more than a few millimeters, but it’s noticeable enough to cause the breasts to look uneven.
Improved Implant Technology
Medical technology is increasing every year at an exponential rate. Women who had their implants done in the early 2000s are opting to get them redone with current-day implants that offer a more natural look and feel.
What Happens to Implants as Women Age?
Assuming there are no leaks or ruptures, the implants themselves can last a literal lifetime. As women with breast implants grow older, their breasts are subjected to the natural effects of aging, and this can cause changes in appearance or shape.
Gravity, lost tissue connectivity, sun damage, and even the effects of motherhood can all cause breasts to look or feel different as time goes by. Older women will sometimes notice saggy breasts, visible ripping of the implants, or changes in size due to hormonal fluctuations.
It’s hard to say how long breast implants will last before they need replacement or removal. As each woman’s body is different, the best thing to do is follow the advice of your surgeon, get regularly scheduled mammograms (and MRI’s), and make an appointment with your surgeon if you experience any signs of swelling, pain, or discomfort.
While there are some risks associated with breast implants, the vast majority of women get them done without any complications. They feel that the rewards are well worth the potential risks as new breasts can help improve self-esteem and their overall quality of life.