Breast Implant Exchange
Newer breast implants have a very long lifespan. The idea that they will only last a decade is no longer the case. However, if you had your initial breast augmentation performed in your 20’s, there is a good chance that your implants will need to be replaced at some point during your lifetime. Furthermore, aesthetics change. What may have looked good at 23 may no longer fit your lifestyle at 43. It’s also important to keep in mind that a breast implant is a medical device. And as with any device, like a knee replacement, things can go wrong. It’s rare, but it can happen. Couple this with aging skin and breast tissue that may no longer be able to hold your implant as firmly in place, and it’s easy to see why breast implant exchange is a hot topic these days.
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Doherty has extensive experience in all aspects of breast surgery. His job with every breast implant exchange patient is to help you identify what it is, exactly, that is bothering you about your breasts as well as the best procedure to correct the problem. The first step in this journey is to schedule a consultation at one of his Boston area offices.
Breast Implant Exchange Consultation
Every breast is unique just as every patient is unique. So, it’s vital that your breast implant exchange procedure be tailored to your individual body, current goals and lifestyle. Dr. Doherty starts every consultation by listening to your frustrations and working with you to pinpoint the root of the issue. This may be as simple as exchanging your current implant for a newer model of the same size. Or it may require something more such as replacing your implant with a smaller breast implant and tightening the breast envelope with a breast lift. All of these options will be discussed in detail once Dr. Doherty performs a thorough physical exam. He uses the exam to assess:
- skin tone & elasticity
- status of your natural breast tissue
- placement & state of your current implant
- nipple position
Reasons to Consider a Breast Implant Exchange
There are a myriad of reasons why a woman might want to exchange her breast implant. One of the biggest is a changing aesthetic. As in fashion, there are certain trends when it comes to breast augmentation. What once seemed “au courant” may now feel “passé”. Currently, the look is leaning towards a smaller, more natural looking breast. Furthermore, many women’s bodies change size or shape with time thanks to pregnancy, menopause or weight gain. These patients often feel as if their old breast implants no longer reflect their current body ideal.
While many patients seek to exchange their bigger implant for a smaller one, some patients want to go bigger. This is especially true with patients who have gained weight. The important thing is to create a new breast that fits your body contour. Certain patients who want to go smaller and who have enough natural breast tissue may be able to get away with a breast augmentation using fat alone. For some patients, Dr. Doherty uses fat grafting to smooth out transitions so that the implant is never visible or to add a bit more upper pole fullness.
In very rare cases, there may be a problem with your implant such as:
- capsular contracture
- implant malposition
The latter is when the implant drops out of its original position due to loose skin and/or breast tissue. While some patients simply want to remove their implant all together, most want to exchange their current implant. Certain patients who got saline implants the first time around due to the silicone scare of the early 1990’s may now want to exchange them for one of the newer silicone gel breast implant models. But even if you want to stay the same size, the breast implant exchange procedure is never as simple as swapping out one implant for another.
Breast Implant Exchange Procedure
Exchanging your breast implant is not like changing a tire. Anytime that you put a device into your body, a capsule forms around that device. It’s the body’s way of healing. Sometimes with breast implants, this capsule develops a problem and hardens (capsular contracture). But even a healthy capsule will need to be removed if you are downsizing. Otherwise, your smaller implant won’t stay in position. And just as time takes its toll on the skin of your face, causing sagging, it can also adversely affect the skin and tissue of your breasts. The result is a breast implant that no longer sits in the right position. For these patients, an implant exchange will typically need to be combined with a breast lift to tighten up the skin envelope and return your breasts to a more perky, youthful position.
Dr. Doherty performs all of his breast implant exchange surgeries under general anesthesia in the operating room at a Boston area hospital or accredited Boston area surgical centers. During your procedure, he will remove your original implant, typically through your original incision, and check for any tear or rupture. He will then clean out the capsule and replace your implant with the newer model if you are staying the same size. If you are going bigger or smaller, he will also need to remove the old capsule. In patients whose breast tissues have stretched, he will perform a breast lift as well.
Breast Implant Exchange Procedure Recovery
Your recovery is really going to depend on how your body heals and exactly which breast implant exchange procedure you have done. In general, you can expect to feel uncomfortable for the first couple of days after surgery. Your chest will be wrapped in gauze and/or a surgical bra. You will be swollen and bruised for 2 weeks, but most patients can return to their normal activities such as driving and working at a computer at 2-3 weeks. Dr. Doherty allows his breast surgery patients to start exercising at 3 weeks except for upper body work. For that, it’s best to wait until 4-6 weeks post surgery. If you have a breast lift in addition to your breast implant exchange, you will also be required to wear a surgical bra for compression for the first week.
As you may remember from your initial augmentation, it can take anywhere from 3-6 months for your swelling to fully subside and for your new implants to drop into their final position. So, be patient. But before you know it, your new silhouette will emerge and you will once again feel fabulous in your skin.
To find out more about a breast implant exchange procedure with Dr. Sean Doherty at his Boston or Brookline office, contact us today or call (617) 450-0070 to schedule a consultation.
I want to go smaller. Do I necessarily need another implant?
It depends. If you have enough natural breast tissue to create an appropriate sized breast, Dr. Doherty will simply remove your original implants. However, in older patients, this will often need to be combined with a breast lift to tighten up loose skin and restore your nipple to its proper position. All of these options will be discussed with you at your initial consultation.
Will this exchange result in another scar?
Again, that depends on what you have done. If you are simply exchanging your current implant whether it’s for one the same size or one that’s bigger or smaller, Dr. Doherty can typically use your existing incision line to do the exchange.
How do I know if I need a breast lift?
A good rule of thumb in determining whether or not you need a breast lift is nipple position. When you look at yourself in the mirror, do your nipples face straight ahead? Or do they point down towards your feet? If your nipples rest at or below the inframammary fold, which is the crease beneath your breasts, then you are probably in need of a breast lift.
I just want my implants gone. Is this possible?
Of course. A breast implant can be removed at anytime. Assuming that your skin and breast tissue have not stretched out then the implant and capsule are removed and you are done. However, if you are older or you are someone who had a large implant, you may need a breast lift to tighten up your skin envelope so that your new breasts don’t sag.
Will my recovery be the same as with my initial augmentation?
In general, yes. Some patients may find things to even be a bit easier the second time around since they know what to expect. Also, if you are having a lift, there are many new products and treatments such as Silagen and Biocorneum and laser resurfacing and micro-needling to help your scars heal smooth and flat.