Summary: Breast implants—those marvelous devices that make breast augmentation surgery possible—are sophisticated medical devices, but they also generally have a shelf life. You should be aware of how long your implant is expected to last. The plus side is that modern silicone implants are quite robust, and as long as they don’t give you problems, you don’t have to worry about them. Still, it never hurts to talk to your doctor and find out more.
Forever is a Long Time
They were never meant to last forever. That’s the truth about your breast implants (it may also be the truth about your natural breasts as well, but that’s a conversation for another day). As recently as 2011, a study orchestrated by the United States FDA found that over the course of ten years, somewhere between 20-40% of women who have implants will modify or replace them. This seems like a really high number, but there are a couple of caveats.
As the study was published in 2011, it’s difficult to know how many of the studied implants were silicone or saline. Silicone implants were re-introduced to the marketplace in 2006, after the FDA deemed them safe. This is an important distinction because silicone is a much more robust implant than saline. In fact, most plastic surgeons prefer silicone, including Houston breast augmentation expert Dr. Charles Polsen, who conducts a lot of work with breast augmentation and reconstruction.
Often, when a silicone implant ruptures, it does not show symptoms and does not need to be replaced. In other words, it’s a much more robust option, but because the study was published in 2011, and the silicone implant wasn’t re-released until 2006, it’s difficult to gage just how effective it was over the ten years the study was conducted.
When to Get a Replacement
Modern silicone breast implants are generally expected to last between 15-30 years. So it’s likely you can go a significant time without needing to worry about replacing the implant.
Indeed, the general rule of thumb is that you only need to replace your implant when it begins to cause problems. While, in theory, this means that you could never have to remove or replace your implant, it wouldn’t really be responsible to suggest you should expect that. Rather, keep an eye on your implant as the years go on, and if you feel pain or stiffness in your breast, you should have your doctor conduct an MRI to see if there is a rupture.
It’s true that your breast implant may not last forever. But modern implants—especially silicone—are designed to be robust and have failsafes. In other words, even if the implant ruptures, it will still maintain its shape. So, listen to your body and note any pain the implant might cause.
As long as you’re asymptomatic, there’s no need to have the implant removed or adjusted. If you have any questions or concerns about your implant, or you’re interested in breast augmentation surgery, contact your plastic surgeon today.