How Long Do Breast Implants Really Last?

One of the most common questions from women considering breast augmentation surgery is, “How long will the implants last?” Misconceptions include the belief that they will last forever or that they need to be replaced every ten years. Neither is true. The reality is more complex, with a wide range of individual experiences.

Implants can last for 20 years, and sometimes even longer. They can also fail or cause problems that require their replacement in less than 10 years. Many women also choose to have implants replaced or removed for personal reasons, as their bodies change with age or their goals for their appearance evolve.

Here, we’ll explain how long Nashville breast implants really last, the reasons they are removed or replaced, and how that removal or replacement is done.

How Can Breast Implants “Fail”?

Implant leaks or ruptures
There are two main types of breast implants: saline and silicone gel. Both types are made with silicone shells that can leak or rupture over time with different effects.

  • When a saline implant ruptures, the fluid inside is naturally processed out of the body with no adverse health effects. But the cosmetic effect is noticeable right away. The affected breast appears deflated and flattened and breast symmetry is lost.
  • When a silicone implant ruptures, the gel inside typically remains in place for some time. It can also move out of the shell into the capsule of tissue that has naturally formed around the implant. Or, if no steps are taken to remove the leaked silicone gel, it can spread beyond that capsule into the tissue of the breast and even beyond. The rupture may not be noticeable visually, but, over time, if untreated, it can have health consequences.

Capsular contracture
In some cases, breast implants trigger a reaction called capsular contracture. The body’s normal response of forming a protective, flexible capsule of tissue around the implant goes awry. The capsule thickens and hardens with excessive scar tissue. This can cause discomfort and pain. It can also put pressure on the implant, distorting its shape and increasing the risk of rupture.

Implants can develop wrinkles or ripples that can be noticeable by feel or may be visible through the skin.

Implant malposition
Another way breast implants can “fail” is by shifting out of position. One or both implants can shift toward the center or outside of the chest or move down or up from the original placement position.

Whether the problem is due to implant rupture, capsular contracture, rippling, or an implant shifting out of position, corrective surgery may be needed to remove, replace, or reposition the implant and remove any damaged tissue.

Watch Dr. Michael Cash explain capsular contracture and silicone implant rupture in this video.

How Long Do Implants Really Last?

On average, both saline and silicone implants last from 10 to 15 years, but that average range can’t tell you what your experience will be. An estimated 20 percent of women with implants have them removed or replaced in less than 10 years, mostly due to implant rupture or capsular contracture. Your implants might last for 20 years or more, or you might be among those who require implant correction in less than 10 years.

What’s important is to:

  • Recognize the possibility that your implants might need to be replaced.
  • Understand the kinds of problems that might occur.
  • Monitor the status of your implants with regular check-ups and periodic MRI scans.

Even if you never have problems with your implants, you may decide to have them removed or replaced in the future as your feelings about your appearance change over time. You may choose to have larger implants, smaller implants, a different type of implants, or no implants at all. The surgery to remove or replace your implants can include a breast lift to reshape your breasts and correct sagging.

How to Know When Implants Need to Be Removed or Replaced

At Nashville Plastic Surgery, we see our breast augmentation patients every year for a quick follow-up to check for any problems. We also encourage our patients with silicone implants to follow the FDA guideline of having an MRI 4 to 5 years after their surgery, and then every 4 years after that. An MRI can detect a ruptured implant shell and the presence of silicone outside the shell, which may not be detectable visually with a self-check breast exam.

Noticeable signs that you may need an implant removed or replaced include:

  • Hardened tissue around the implant, which can be accompanied by discomfort or pain, and may distort the shape of the breast. These are all signs of capsular contracture, which is corrected by removing both the implant and the hardened scar tissue.
  • Deflation of a saline implant, which causes the breast to lose volume and appear deflated or flattened.
  • Pain, tenderness, tingling, or numbness, any of which can be signs of implant problems.
  • Rippling, whether felt on the surface of the implant in a self-exam or visible through the skin.

Changes in your body can also lead to a desire for implant replacement or surgery to improve breast shape and position. Breasts naturally sag over time, a change that can be corrected with a breast lift. Breasts can also change in size, especially with pregnancy and breastfeeding or weight changes, and this might lead you to choose to replace your implants to bring your features into better balance.

What to Expect in Breast Implant Replacement or Removal Surgery

Your experience in breast implant replacement or removal surgery will be similar to your experience with your original breast augmentation procedure. The surgery is performed using general anesthesia. Whenever possible, incisions are made along the lines used for the original surgery. In the procedure, the implants are removed, along with any damaged tissue. If the implants are being replaced, the new implants are positioned in the same pocket.

If a breast lift is being performed along with the implant removal, a strip of excess skin is removed, the position of the breasts is raised, and tissue within the breast is repositioned to create an attractive shape.

Contact Nashville Plastic Surgery online or by calling (615) 454-2271 to schedule a consultation with Michael Cash, M.D. for breast augmentation, a breast lift, or breast implant replacement or removal. He will examine you, ask questions to understand your goals, and give his recommendations for the safest and most effective approach. Patients in metro Nashville and throughout middle Tennessee choose Dr. Cash as their cosmetic surgeon because of his ability to create stunning results and the caring attention he and his staff provide.

Ready to Get Started?

2201 Murphy Avenue, Suite 301,
Nashville, TN 37203

At Nashville Plastic Surgery, we have a deep understanding of the important role that physical image plays in life, yet we never lose sight of emotional well being. Our approach to plastic and reconstructive surgery integrates these fundamental principles to promote overall health.