Side effects of breast implants may include:
- Pain or discomfort (especially in the first few days after surgery)
- Changes in breast or nipple sensation
- Implant rupture or leak
Some side effects can last well beyond the healing process. For example, long-term risks of breast implants include:
- Rupture or deflation: Both saline and silicone gel implants can undergo rupture and deflation. This occurs when a puncture appears in the membrane of the implant, allowing the fillings to leak out into the body. In such cases, the implant should be taken out immediately and replaced.
- Loss of sensation: After implant surgery, sensory loss in the breast, areola, and surrounding areas may occur due to nerve damage caused by incisions or placement of the implant. In rare cases, the loss can be permanent.
- Capsular contracture: This occurs when fibrous tissues develop around the implant, causing discomfort, stretching, or displacement of the implant. In such cases, patients must undergo additional surgery to take out the extra tissue.
- Difficulty breastfeeding: In some women, breast implants can block milk ducts and hinder the breastfeeding process.
What are the main types of breast implants?
Breast implants are placed under the breast tissue or chest muscle to change breast size and shape for reconstruction and aesthetic purposes. There are two basic types:
- Saline-filled implants: Saline implants are filled with sterile saline water. Some are prefilled, and others are filled during implant surgery.
- Silicone gel-filled implants: Silicon implants are filled with plastic silicone gel and feel more natural than saline implants. However, health risks are higher if they leak.
Both types of implants come in different sizes and may either have smooth or textured shells.
What happens during a breast implant procedure?
During breast implant surgery, general anesthesia is administered to the patient or local anesthesia is applied to the area. Types of incisions include:
- Periareolar incision: Around the areola or nipple
- Inframammary incision: Crease between the undersurface of the breast and chest
- Transaxillary incision: Armpit
- Transumbilical incision: Belly button
After placing the implant, the area is sutured and dressed.
How long do new breast implants last?
New breast implants are designed to last about 10 years on average, with chances of rupture increasing every year.
Implants may remain in good shape for 20 years or more in many cases, although the lifespan will mainly depend on how well the implants are maintained.
How to take care of your breast implants
Proper care can help you improve the lifespan of your breast implants:
- Wear a support garment or surgical bra during recovery
- Undergo annual checkups and perform regular self-exams
- If you have silicone implants, get an MRI done 2 years after the surgery and then every 2 years after that
US Food and Drug Administration. Risks and Complications of Breast Implants. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/breast-implants/risks-and-complications-breast-implants
de Faria Castro Fleury E, Jasmin Huanca Bernal K, Lucena Miranda Madeiro A, Luis Cervera Ocana W, Carlos Vendramini Fleury J, Caobianco L. Side effects in breast implants related to radiotherapy in breast cancer reconstructive surgery. Tech Innov Patient Support Radiat Oncol. 2021 Mar 18;18:8-11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33778175/
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