The Surgeon Minute

Long-Term Breast Implant Maintenance: Remove, Replace or Leave Alone?

Long-Term Breast Implant Maintenance: Remove, Replace or Leave Alone?

Chances are the body you had when you underwent breast augmentation looked very different from the body you now have ten or twenty years down the road. Whether you still love your breast size and shape or desire a change, you can visit a board certified plastic surgeon to have them checked out. Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Melinda Haws of Nasvhille discusses the reasons behind breast implant maintenance and the options she advises to her patients.

The Breast Implant Check-Up Appointment

A good portion of Dr. Haws’ Nashville plastic surgery practice is women visiting her for breast implant upkeep. “Some women just want to have them checked, make sure the implants are okay,” shares Dr. Haws. Other women desire a surgical update to keep their breasts in line with their changing figure. “Things change. Our bodies change,” emphasizes Haws. “Some women now feel like they are too big, they feel like they are too small, they feel like they are too low, they feel like they are too high, whatever it may be.”

Breast implant maintenance - the consultation.

Understanding When Change is Necessary, and When It Isn’t

While the information online regarding breast implant replacement can be confusing, the truth is that breast implants do not have an expiration date. In fact, Dr. Haws knows women who have had saline breast implants for thirty plus years, who are still happy with their results and do not need to replace them.  “If they look great and they feel great, you can leave them alone,” points out Dr. Haws. “If it’s not bothering you – you don’t need to bother it.”

There are some situations, however, where a removal and replacement surgery would improve the quality of life for women with breast implants who have been living with a condition known as capsular contracture. When capsular contracture occurs, the body forms a thick capsule of scar tissue around an otherwise soft implant. The scar tissue squeezes the implant and makes the breasts feel firm or hard to the touch. The condition can make women uncomfortable physically and emotionally.

Breast implant maintenance - capsular contracture.

“There’s an awful lot of women walking around who have very firm, rock hard breasts with capsular contracture who don’t understand that they don’t have to live with that,” says Haws.  “We can fix that.”

Determining the Plan to Update Your Breasts

If you are no longer happy with your original breast augmentation, there are several options available to surgically update your breasts and get to where you want to be. Even if your overall weight doesn’t change much over the years, the consistency of your breast tissue changes with time. Determining whether you need breast implant removal, replacement or a combination of a removal or a replacement with a breast lift is not always an obvious decision. Once you make an appointment to discuss your options with a plastic surgeon, the surgeon will help you determine the best plan to achieve your goals.

Common Breast Implant Revision Procedures:

  • Removal of Old Implants
  • Replacement of Old Implants with New Implants
  • Removal of Old Implants with a Breast Lift
  • Removal, Replacement and a Breast Lift

One advantage to having older saline implants is the ability to deflate them in the office under local anesthetic. “Once you get back to baseline with those old saline implants,” points out Haws, “then you can say, ‘Hey, this is pretty good – I just want them out.’ Or, ‘No, I need a little bit,’  or, ‘I need a lot,’ or maybe, ‘I need a lift.’”

When the aging implants are silicone, Dr. Haws must decide how much of the current breast is the patient’s natural breast, versus how much is the implant. When a woman wants to go down a cup size, she may think she needs to exchange the old implants for a smaller implant. In reality, if the original implants weren’t very large to begin with, the best plan may involve removing the implants altogether, and doing a breast lift to tighten up the natural breasts.

Breast implant removal results - Dr. Haws.

An Experienced Surgeon can Make the Best Recommendations & Predictions

Whether the plan is to remove implants, replace them, and/or lift the breasts, predicting the end results of breast implant revisions and removals is not as straightforward as predicting the results of a first time augmentation.  To achieve the best results, it’s important to find a surgeon who devotes a good portion of their practice and time to breast implant removal and replacement procedures.

Dr. Haws is able to show patients many pictures of prior patients who may have started out at a similar place pre-operatively. By walking the new patient consult through what was taken out, the procedure that was done, and showing them what the end result was, she can help patients better visualize what they too can expect from similar procedures.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time. Placing implants, as well as taking them out,” says Haws. “We’re all different, our bodies are different, what we want is different, what we start with is different. My job is to be able to communicate well enough with a patient to decide what they want, and what I can then give them – to determine what is possible with their body.”

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