Breast 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. How do you know if that time has come? You can read more about the potential complications of breast implants here. Below are some helpful insights that can help you decide if it’s time to consider removing your implants.
Are your implants ruptured or leaking?
If you have silicone gel filled implants, the FDA recommends that you get a breast coil MRI regularly to detect ruptures that have no symptoms. When silicone breast implants were first approved, the FDA recommended that all women undergo a breast MRI 3 years after getting breast implants, and every other year after that. However, because of the expense and the reluctance of plastic surgeons to encourage MRIs for silent ruptures, very few women followed the FDA’s advice. As of October 2020, FDA now recommends an MRI 5-6 years after the initial surgery and every 2-3 years after that. If a leak or rupture is confirmed you will need to have the implant removed as soon as possible. Ruptured silicone gel implants should be removed en bloc and by an experienced plastic surgeon. Remember that not all ruptures of silicone gel implants will show up on breast coil MRIs or ultrasounds. If your implants are more than 10 years old or you suspect they may be ruptured, you should consider removal as you may have a silent, undetected leak.
Are you having trouble concentrating, fatigue or other unexplained illnesses?
It could be a sign that you are experiencing autoimmune symptoms that may be a result of your breast implants. If other possible causes have been eliminated by testing, your symptoms have not resolved on their own, and/or you haven’t been able to successfully manage your symptoms with other medical treatments, you may want to consider removing your implants. If you suspect that your autoimmune symptoms or “breast implant illness” are directly linked to your breast implants, you may want to discuss getting your implants removed with a plastic surgeon who is very experienced at removing problem implants. There is now clear scientific evidence establishing a connection between breast implants and autoimmune symptoms, and research shows that most women report significant improvements in their symptoms after removal. You can read about another woman’s experience with breast implant illness here, and you can read about the recent research here.
Are you concerned about the possibility of BIA-ALCL? Have you developed a lump or swelling around your implant?
If you have been diagnosed with breast implant associated-anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) you should get your implants removed as soon as possible. If you have textured breast implants, you are at risk for BIA-ALCL. However, that does not mean you should immediately get your breast implants removed, if you are not having any other symptoms from your breast implants. BIA-ALCL is rare and treatable if caught early. If you are not experiencing any other symptoms from your implants, the risks of explant surgery may outweigh the benefits. You should monitor your breasts for changes and symptoms of ALCL and see a doctor regularly. If you have textured implants and are having other symptoms like rupture, capsular contracture, breast pain, autoimmune symptoms, or overwhelming anxiety from having textured implants, it may be time to consider permanent removal of your implants.
Ultimately, if you suspect that you are experiencing any symptoms from your breast implants it is in your best interest to discuss with a health professional if removal is the best choice for you. Other issues that may lead you to consider breast implant removal include, added weight and strain on the neck, back and shoulders, infections that are not treatable by antibiotics, and unhappiness with how your breasts look. When making your decision, remember that if you decide to replace your implants the risk of complications coming back is high. If you are considering permanent removal, it is important to keep in mind that that your breasts may not look the same as they did before your breast implant surgery. There is likely to be loose skin and changes in the rib area. If this concerns you, you can see an experienced plastic surgeon and discuss alternatives to breast implants to improve the cosmetic look of the breasts, such as a breast lift. You can learn more about breast lifts here.
Removing breast implants is a more complicated surgery than putting them in and requires a skilled plastic surgeon. 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.