If you are interested in breast implants, either to increase the size of your breasts or to reconstruct damaged or removed breast tissue following surgery, one question you should be keenly interested in when deciding whether it’s right for you is “how long do breast implants last?”. We answer this for you in this post.
There are a lot of people that misunderstand the lifespan of breast implants, and many have the misconception that they need to be replaced every 10 years.
While it’s true that many are removed and replaced after 10 years, this is not always down to the implant being damaged.
The interesting thing is that though they don’t technically expire, they aren’t guaranteed to last a lifetime. On average it is between 10 and 20 years.
A study found that many surgeons estimate a 15-20 year lifespan for breast implants.
Generally, though, it is more to do with the body’s reaction to the implants than the implants themselves failing, as we are going to explain in the following post.
Alternatively, contact us now to book your consultation with our plastic surgeons who can help you decide which breast implants are the right choice for you.
How do I know when my breast implants need replacing?
The short answer to this question is that you will know you need to have your breast implants replaced if you experience any of the following:
- Capsular contracture
- Breast implant rupture – which includes:
- Saline rupture/deflation and leakage
- Silicone rupture/silent rupture
Be aware of the following symptoms of silicone rupture, though not everyone suffers from all of them or any at all:
- Sensation changes
- Tenderness or pain
- Uneven appearance
- Hard knots
- Decreased size
- Position change
Do you have to replace breast implants every 10 years?
When it comes to how long breast implants last, your surgeon will discuss this with you when you have your consultation appointment.
As we’ve already highlighted, it is often not the implant that deteriorates, but how your body reacts to them over time.
The 10-year mark is often used as a milestone; however, the reality is that breast implants aren’t like parts of a car that need to be replaced after you’ve driven a certain number of miles.
Unless there are any issues or problems you are experiencing with your implants, many will last between 10 and 15 years.
Should I get a check-up after 10 years if there have been no problems?
That is up to you to decide. As most implants are given a best-case scenario lifespan of 20 years, it would make sense to have them checked if you want peace of mind.
Can breast implants last 20 years?
Yes, implants may last 20 years. Again, unless there are any problems detected, there is no reason why breast implants will not last at least 20 years before needing to be replaced.
The biggest problem is that, if you have them in for that long, there is an increased likelihood of there being scar tissue around the implant, otherwise known as a capsular contracture.
In that situation, the capsular contracture can be removed with the implant still intact and usable.
Can breast implants last 30 years?
While we have stressed throughout this post that set timeframes are only used for guidance purposes and breast implants don’t have expiry dates, they are still not impervious to natural wear and tear and deterioration.
If you push past the 20-year mark, you could increase your risk of injuries and health complications if you do not have your breast implants assessed by a professional.
30 years isn’t unheard of, but you’ll want to absolutely get them checked up before then.
How to prepare for the removal of breast implants
If you need to have your breast implants removed for any reason, you may be feeling a little nervous and scared.
Although this is understandable, you do not need to worry.
In the first instance, you will be invited along for a consultation appointment, as you were when you were first interested in getting implants.
The surgeon will assess the current state of your breast implants and talk through the various surgical options open to you.
It’s important to note that you don’t have to have your breast implants removed by the same surgeon that originally put them in place.
Most plastic surgeons will offer the following options, depending on what you prefer:
- Remove just your breast implants
- Remove your breast implants and provide you with a breast lift (read our guide on breast implants vs breast lift)
- Remove the lumpy or hardened breast tissue
- Replace the breast implant with or without the addition of a breast uplift
At times, when only a breast implant removal is performed, it can lead to aesthetic abnormalities with your existing breasts, including:
With this in mind, your surgeon may advise you to have your existing breast implants replaced with new breast implants with a different shape or size to compensate for the changes.
The recovery period is different for everyone. You may even be able to return home on the same day as your breast surgery.
Your plastic surgeon will discuss the possibilities and what you can expect during your consultation.
Although you may be able to start back at work within five days of having your breast implants removed/replaced, it will be a further six weeks before you will be able to participate in any exercise, heavy lifting, or other strenuous activities.
Tips for increasing the lifespan of breast implants
Aside from complications, one of the key reasons why many people want to have their breast implants removed is because they are unhappy with the size or shape of them.
It’s understandable that your tastes and preferences will change over time.
But with something as drastic as breast augmentation, to get the most out of it, it is best to choose a shape and size you imagine you’ll still be happy with even when you are older.
Complications are the other main reason why implants need to be removed, as we’ve already discussed.
As these either result from normal wear and tear or errors by the surgical team, there are a few things you can do to extend the lifespan somewhat:
- Choose a reputable board-certified plastic surgeon with many decades of experience and positive results
- Follow the instructions for postoperative recovery as closely as you can
- Book yourself regular MRI scans to check for any silicone ruptures
What will happen if breast implants are not removed and replaced?
As we’ve noted, the only real major reason, other than personal taste and preference changing with time, that you should have breast implants removed is if there is a rupture or some other complication.
If you fail to have them removed and replaced after this occurs, you may wonder what happens.
Interestingly, there have not been many studies conducted into this worst-case scenario.
Doctors are not in the habit of leaving ruptured breast implants in place just to see what happens over time.
So, let’s use some anecdotal information and a bit of good old common sense to come up with some answers to the question.
If it is known that your breast implants have ruptured, it is firmly recommended that they should be removed.
That is the case whether they are silicone implants or saline implants.
With silicone ruptured implants, the silicone can start to cause inflammation that will in turn create scar tissue, in the form of capsular contracture and a lot of pain.
You will even find that insurance companies tend to cover the costs for the removal of ruptured implants.
With saline breast implant ruptures, however, it is less clear. Insurance tends not to pay for the removal of saline implant ruptures.
What does this suggest? That there are less serious problems, if any at all, when you keep ruptured saline breast implants (as saline is essentially a special formula of salt and water)
We would still recommend removal for peace of mind and obviously if you want your enhanced look back.
Although there doesn’t seem to be a medical need for a capsular contracture to be removed if it’s in place and is not going to do any damage, if your breasts feel painful or hard, you may still want to have the capsule and implants removed, if only for comfort and peace of mind.
Contact us now to book your consultation with our plastic surgeons who can help you decide if and which breast implants are the right choice for you.