After thinking about breast augmentation for months—maybe years—you’ve decided to get breast implants. It’s an exciting time, and you may already be planning a shopping trip for clothes that will highlight your new curves. The last thing on your mind is having to replace your implants at some point. Breast implants, however, are not designed to last forever. The question is, how long do implants last?
As you might imagine, implants don’t have a specific expiration date. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), manufacturers designed the latest generation of breast implants to last more than 10 years. The ASPS says the risk of an implant rupture increases by 1% each year, so the older your implants are, the greater the risk of a rupture. That being said, many women who undergo breast augmentation have their implants for 15 to 20 years or longer.
Each patient is unique, and the durability of the implants depends on a woman’s body and how well they maintain their implants. The bottom line is that if you’re not experiencing complications and still like how your breasts look, there is no reason to replace or remove breast implants.
Which Implants Last Longer?
Does the breast implant fill material make a difference when it comes to their lifespan? In general, implants are either filled with saline (sterile saltwater) or a silicone gel of various consistencies. (You can learn more about your breast implant options on our website.) The choice of implant is a personal decision based on your preferences regarding the look and feel of the implants. Neither saline nor cohesive silicone gel implants necessarily last longer than the other.
When Should You Replace Your Breast Implants?
Women replace their implants for several reasons. Some elect to exchange their implants because they want a different size or type of implant. Someone who originally opted for saline implants, for example, may want to replace them with the latest generation of cohesive silicone gel implants. Statistics show that about 82% of breast augmentation patients choose silicone gel implants for breast augmentation.
A changed lifestyle may also prompt women to replace or remove breast implants. A woman who underwent breast augmentation surgery in her 20s may not be comfortable with the same look in her 30s or 40s, or she may lead a more active lifestyle that’s not conducive to having larger breasts.
In other cases, a complication requires having the implants removed or replaced. Several complications can affect how long breast implants last and when you need breast revision surgery. These can include:
Ruptured implant: Wear and tear ultimately take a toll on implants, resulting in a rupture. The signs of having a ruptured implant are very different for saline and silicone gel devices. When a saline implant ruptures, it’s immediately noticeable as the fluid drains from the implant and the breast appears deflated. The cohesiveness of silicone gel implants, on the other hand, means the fill material remains in place after a rupture. As a result, it’s difficult to know that the implant is no longer intact. That’s why it’s often called a “silent rupture.” You may notice a different sensation or slightly changed appearance after an implant ruptures, but it’s often only detected when you get a mammogram.
Capsular contracture: This is the most common breast implant complication. It can happen at any point and isn’t related to the age of the implants. When you get breast implants, scar tissue forms around them, creating a capsule. In some cases, the scar tissue contracts and tightens. This can result in breast deformity and hardness that can only be corrected with revision surgery.
Rippling: This issue is more common with saline implants, especially if placed above the chest muscle. Visible rippling occurs when you can see the wrinkled folds of an implant through the breast skin.
Implant shifting position: The aging process and gravity can cause implants to change positions over time. As the skin and tissue of your breasts become looser, an implant may drop below the crease where your breast connects to the chest (the inframammary fold) or drift to the side. Women who choose larger implants tend to experience implant malposition more often.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding: The shape and size of breasts may change significantly after having children, whether you have breast implants or not. If you do have implants, you may notice changes that you’re not happy with and choose to get breast revision surgery. This may include combining new implants with a breast lift to restore a more youthful shape.
Can You Extend the Life of Your Implants?
Caring for your implants begins during the recovery. Closely following your surgeon’s instructions, such as wearing a support bra, not only helps you heal but can also prevent implants from shifting prematurely. Getting annual checkups, doing routine self-checks, and having MRI tests on a regular schedule can also detect issues early.
If you are considering breast augmentation, or you have implants and believe you need revision surgery, you can request a consultation with either of our breast enhancement specialists using the online form. Or call our Scottsdale practice at (480) 423-1973 to schedule an appointment.