When Should I Exchange My Breast Implants? – This is a question I hear in my clinic almost daily. To complicate matters, there really seems to be no majority consensus among plastic surgeons regarding the timing of implant exchange. I have heard one plastic surgeon say regardless of implant type – saline or silicone -they should all be exchanged every 10 years. Another plastic surgeon claims, if the implants are not giving you trouble then you do not ever need to exchange them. I disagree with both, and before giving you my thoughts on the topic, let’s go into why they need to be exchanged.
The first reason I recommend implant exchange is rupture risk. – When Should I Exchange My Breast Implants?
The risk of implant rupture is basically the same for saline and silicone implants and is about 1% per year. For example, the risk of rupture after 10 years is 10%. If a saline implant ruptures, your body will resorb the saline and other than needing to have it replaced it is not a problem. If a silicone implant ruptures, usually you will experience symptoms like pain in the breast, but you may not know it. The silicone can leak into the breast tissue forming little nodules and a local inflammatory reaction. The longer the problem is ignored the worse it becomes.
The other reason I recommend implant exchange is capsular contracture. – When Should I Exchange My Breast Implants?
Capsular contracture occurs when the scar tissue normally found around all implants, becomes thick and tighter to the point where the implant and breast tissue gets distorted. The capsule or scar tissue around the implant also develops calcium within it and begins to feel like an egg shell over time. This occurs in 100% of implants at 22 years to some degree.
As stated previously, the risk of rupture at 10 years is 10%, but after ten years, the risk begins to go up. – When Should I Exchange My Breast Implants?
The risk goes up very slowly, so I tell my patients if you don’t mind a slight risk then exchange your silicone implants at 14 years. Because of the safety of saline, these implants only need to be exchanged at 18 or 19 years after having the initial augmentation surgery. Obviously, if you begin to have symptoms then saline or silicone implants need to be exchanged sooner.
The only way to know for sure is to schedule an appointment for a consult with a board certified plastic surgeon to discuss it.