When Should You Remove Your Implants?


Implants do not last a lifetime. If you get breast implants, you should expect that you will need additional surgery in the future to fix problems or remove your implants. Below are some common reasons why you might need your implants removed. You can click on the links for more information:

Capsular Contracture

The most common complication of breast implants is capsular contracture. When you get breast implants, your body naturally reacts by forming scar tissue around the implants. Capsular contracture occurs when the scar tissue hardens and tightens around the implant. It can cause pain, hardness, and make the breast look abnormal. Some women compare it to how hard and painful breasts can feel when they have waited too long to breastfeed. The only way to cure capsular contracture is to have your breast implants surgically removed.

Breast Pain, Redness, or Swelling

Many women with breast implants report breast and/or chest pain. This pain may or may not be related to capsular contracture. Some women also experience redness or swelling, which could be caused by an infection or by anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). If the infection can’t be cleared up with antibiotics, you will probably need to have your implants removed.

Rupture

Both saline and silicone implants can rupture and leak. This can be caused by anything from a small hole to a large tear. When saline implants leak, it is usually obvious because they tend to deflate quickly. When silicone implants leak, it may be a slow leak and there may be no symptoms or signs. Silicone can leak and travel to other organs such as the lungs, liver, or brain where surgeons can’t remove it. If your implants are leaking, you should find a plastic surgeon who is experienced at removing leaking implants.

Autoimmune Symptoms

Many women with breast implants complain of joint pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, memory issues, hair loss, and flu-like symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, they may be autoimmune reactions from the silicone or other chemicals in your implants. This is especially likely if you had autoimmune or connective tissue diseases before getting implants, or if any of your family members have those diseases (such as diabetes, lupus, arthritis, and scleroderma). Women with autoimmune symptoms or a family history were intentionally excluded from the studies because the implant companies were concerned that the implants could trigger those symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should consider having your implants surgically removed.

Interference with Breast Cancer Screening

Capsular contracture can interfere with the accuracy of mammography and might cause mammography to be unbearably painful. Breast implants can also hide cancer that is located behind or near it. The squeezing pressure during mammography can cause an implant to rupture. Doing a breast self-examination can be more difficult if you have implants. Additionally, implants can interfere with the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer or your doctor suspects you have breast cancer, you should talk with your breast cancer doctor about removal.

Infection

Infections could occur right after breast implant surgery or months or years after. These infections can be serious. For example, Toxic Shock Syndrome, a life-threatening complication, has been reported after implant surgery. If you are experiencing recurring or serious infections that might be caused by your implants, you should seek immediate treatment. If antibiotics are not effective, you will need to talk with your doctor about removal.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Concerns

Breast implants can make it more difficult for women to produce enough breast milk to feed a baby. Although it is possible to breastfeed with implants, women with implants are more likely to need to supplement with formula. It is important to know that any breast surgery (including augmentation, reduction, or breast cancer surgery) can damage breast tissue and the ducts that carry breast milk. Some women with implants who breastfed have reported that their children were harmed, but there are no scientific studies to prove whether breastfeeding with implants is harmful.

Breast Implant Associated-Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL)

ALCL is a rare form of cancer of the immune system. Experts now agree that women with breast implants are more likely to develop ALCL and now refer to it as BIA-ALCL. To test for ALCL, your doctor will draw fluid from your breast and test it for cancer cells and/or order imaging tests like a PET scan or MRI. If you are diagnosed with ALCL, your implants and scar tissue capsule must be removed as soon as possible.

Other Problems (Back, Neck, or Shoulder Pain; Implant Extrusion; etc.)

Your breast implants could extrude (come out) through the skin or incision site. This is a serious complication that can cause your skin to break down, and as a result, your implants will need to be removed. Breast implants add weight to your upper body, which may cause serious back, neck, or shoulder pain. If you already suffer from back, neck, or shoulder pain, an increase in breast size from implants could make the pain worse. If other treatments, like muscle strengthening exercises, do not relieve these pains, it may be necessary to remove your implants.

Other complications, like problems with how your breasts look, might also cause you to want your implants removed.

The longer you have implants, the more likely you will have one or more of the complications listed above. If you experience serious issues with your implants and need them removed, replacing them could cause continued problems.  For example, many women with problems like capsular contracture, pain, or autoimmune problems will continue to have problems if their implants are replaced. This could result in an expensive cycle of surgeries.

Removing breast implants is more complicated than putting them in and can cost more! For more information on finding an experienced plastic surgeon to remove your breast implants, click here.

All articles have been reviewed and approved by Diana Zuckerman, PhD, and other senior staff.