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. Below are some common reasons why you might need your implants removed. You can click on the links for more information:
The most common complication of breast implants is capsular contracture. When you get breast implants, your body tries to protect itself from the foreign object by forming scar tissue around the implants. Capsular contracture occurs when the scar tissue hardens and tightens around the implant. Severe capsular contracture can cause extreme breast pain, make it difficult to perform daily activities, and can make the breasts change shape. If you have hard, painful breasts, the only way to improve your symptoms is to surgically remove the breast implants and the scar tissue capsules.
Many women with breast implants also report breast and/or chest pain that is not related to capsular contracture (breast hardening). If the breast pain cannot be treated, you will probably need to have your implants removed.
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 will need to have them removed as soon as possible. If you have ruptured silicone gel implants, you should find a plastic surgeon who is experienced at removing implants en bloc, which is when the scar tissue capsule and implant are removed at the same time, with the implant still inside the intact scar tissue capsule. En bloc removal prevents silicone and other chemicals from leaking into the woman’s body during surgery.
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 multiple sclerosis, lupus, arthritis, and scleroderma). Women with autoimmune symptoms or a family history were intentionally excluded from breast implant 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.
ALCL is a rare form of cancer of the immune system. Experts now agree breast implants can cause ALCL, and now refer to it as Breast Implant Associated – Aplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (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.
Breast implants can interfere with the accuracy of breast cancer screening and might cause mammography to be unbearably painful. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, have a family history of breast cancer, or your doctor suspects you have breast cancer, you should talk with your doctor about removing your breast implants.
Infections can occur right after breast implant surgery or months or years after. 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.
Breast implants add weight to your upper body, which may cause serious back, neck, or shoulder pain. 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 a 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.