When a celebrity has breast implants removed, it makes the headlines. Victoria Beckham, Melissa Gilbert, Tori Spelling and Pamela Anderson are among the growing number of Hollywood stars who have publicly acknowledged undergoing breast implant removal surgery in recent years. Women who aren’t in the spotlight are also making the same decision. Why are so many women returning to the operating room to have their implants removed?
St. Louis-based board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Patricia McGuire specializes in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the breast. During her more than 25 years of experience with breast surgery, she has found that there are three reasons women want to have their implants removed.
Reason #1: Breast Implants No Longer Suit Body or Lifestyle
The body a woman has when she first undergoes breast augmentation changes over time. A young woman in her 20’s may later experience pregnancy or weight fluctuations that profoundly affect the appearance of her breasts. As she matures into her 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, the body isn’t all that changes. Her lifestyle, her personal sense of style and her beauty ideals also change as she ages.
“Their bodies have changed,” emphasizes McGuire. “They may have had their implants ten, fifteen years. They may have children, they may have gained or lost weight, their breasts may be a little bit saggier. It may just be time for them to be finished with it.”
When a woman decides that her implants are no longer a fit for her lifestyle or body, she has several options. It’s important to consult with a board certified plastic surgeon who has experience with implant removal, so that together you can decide on the best plan to provide you with the results you desire after the implants are removed.
One option is to remove the implants and replace them with smaller sized implants. Women who opt for smaller implants may also decide to undergo a breast lift at the same time in order to improve the shape of the breast. Another option is to have the implants removed and not replaced. In these cases, a lift is often recommended. An experienced surgeon will be able to advise you based on the size of the implants you currently have, the quality of your skin and your desired outcome.
Reason #2: Mammogram Indicated a Change
“The second reason I’ll see,” shares McGuire, “is that women may have a mammogram and something may look different on the mammogram.”
When a saline implant ruptures, the implant deflates as the water leaks out of the implant and is absorbed by the body. A silicone implant, on the other hand, may have what is known as a silent rupture. There may be a crack in the shell of the implant, but the silicone gel inside the implant remains contained by body. This is due to what is called a capsule of scar tissue, or collagen, that the body forms around an implant when it is placed inside the body.
In some cases a mammogram may indicate a change or irregularity with an implant, but it is not clear whether the implant has ruptured or not. When this happens, the logical next step is to follow up with your plastic surgeon. They may recommend further imaging or decide to monitor the breasts for changes over a period of time.
Reason #3: Concern About Health Issues
A third group of women make the decision to have their implants removed as a last resort. They may be experiencing any of a wide variety of symptoms ranging from fatigue and weight fluctuations to hair loss and joint pain. All of the testing they have undergone has failed to determine a cause for their illness and they think perhaps their implants are the reason for their symptoms.
“They are at the end of their rope and they want to try something different,” says McGuire. “After removal, some of the patients have immediate relief of their symptoms. Others don’t see any changes and others have temporary changes. I make no guarantee that their symptoms will go away, but at least that’s one piece of the puzzle that’s away from them.”
Women concerned that their implants are negatively affecting their health will often request what is known as an en bloc capsulectomy. During this procedure the capsule around the implant is completely removed in one piece along with the implant. When it is possible for McGuire to safely remove both the capsule and implant, she will do so.
Patients also may request that cultures be done on both of the implants. These additional labs are not typically covered by insurance, so when they are requested Dr. McGuire will give the patients the cost in advance and the option to have them done. While several breast implant cultures have come back positive over the years, it is not routinely the case that they do.