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How long do breast implants last?

San Antonio plastic surgeon Dr. Matt Bindewald discusses breast implants

· Breast Augmentation,Breast Implants,Implant Replacement

Breast augmentation surgery is the most popular cosmetic surgery in the United States -- over 280,000 procedures were performed in 2014 alone. However, breast implants do not last forever; there's a risk that they will rupture or leak. While this is rare, your risk does increase over time. If you notice that your implants have deflated, you'll likely want to replace them ASAP.

Silicone or Saline Breast Implants?

Two types of breast implants are currently approved by the FDA: silicone and saline. Each has advantages and disadvantages over the other, including symptoms of rupture.

Silicone breast implants are filled with a silicone gel. They're the new kid on the block and have only been re-approved for use since 2013. Many people prefer silicone implants as they feel more comfortable and more closely match the shape and feeling of natural breasts. They're also less likely to ripple than saline implants. If they rupture, you might not even know it. The most noticeable symptom will be asymmetry and, in many cases, an MRI scan may be needed to detect a leak. For this reason, the FDA recommends an MRI every 2-3 years after your initial implant. While there are concerns about the safety of silicone leaking into the body, there are also few known health risks. While you can choose to keep implants after minor ruptures, be aware that silicone will stick around forever once it has leaked into the body.

Saline breast implants are the faithful standby and have been approved for use since 2000. They're typically a bit firmer than gel implants and are filled with a saltwater solution. Unlike silicone implants, they are only filled after the shell is placed in your breast, often needing a smaller initial incision, making for a less invasive surgery. It's also much easier to adjust the size of saline implants, since surgeons can add or remove saline from the implant after surgery. If your implant leaks, you'll probably know it. Saline leaks out more quickly than silicone, and your breast will rapidly change shape within a few days. As a saline leak is noticeable, you'll want to get it replaced relatively quickly.

How Often Should You Replace Your Breast Implants?

The magic number you'll often hear is that the average implant lasts for 10 years. This isn't always the case, but it's true that the longer you have an implant, the more it becomes susceptible to leaks. Breast implants can last for up to 25 years. Only 1-3 percent of people who undergo breast augmentation surgery ever need to replace a ruptured implant. However, if your implant's shape has changed, rippled or become lopsided, you should make an appointment for breast implant replacement surgery.

What's Breast Implant Replacement Surgery Like?

Breast implant replacement surgery is a relatively quick procedure. Before your surgery, you'll have a consultation to figure out what you'd like to do. If you choose the surgery, it will often take less than an hour. Your surgeon will make an incision into your breasts to remove and replace the implant. In many cases, the incision will be made in the same place that it was during your initial implant. If you're increasing your implant's size, the amount of space in your breast will be surgically enhanced. And if you're making your implants smaller, your surgeon will use sutures to decrease your breast pocket's size. After the initial implant is taken out, it will be replaced with the new implant using the same incision as before. Afterward, you'll be observed for 3-24 hours to make sure there are no immediate complications, and then you'll be confined to bed rest for a few days. You should be in prime condition to return to work within a few days.

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