Newer breast implants have a long lifespan. The idea that they will only last 10 years 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. Any woman who has breast implant surgery has a 25% chance of needing a further surgery on her breasts. Furthermore, aesthetics change. What may have looked good at age 23 may no longer fit your lifestyle at age 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, more likely, 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 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 many reasons why a woman might want to exchange her breast implants. 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, instead, 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 revision procedure using fat alone. For some patients, Dr. Doherty uses fat grafting to smooth out transitions so that the implant less 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 received saline implants the first time around due to the silicone scare of the early to mid1990’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. This happens with any type of implant. Sometimes with breast implants, this capsule develops a problem and hardens (capsular contracture). But even a healthy capsule may need to be removed or adjusted 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 breast tissue and return your breasts to a more perky, youthful position.
Dr. Doherty performs most 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 and remove the capsule if necessary 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 (also known as a mastopexy) 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 by the latest, 2 weeks typically. Dr. Doherty allows his breast surgery patients to start exercising at 3 weeks except for upper body work and chest work. For that, it’s best to wait until 4-6 weeks post-surgery.
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) 935-0801 to schedule a consultation.
It depends. If you have enough natural breast tissue to create an appropriately 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.
That depends on what surgery is required. If you are simply exchanging your current implant whether it’s for one that is the same size or one that’s bigger or smaller, Dr. Doherty can typically use your existing incision line to do the exchange.
A good rule of thumb in determining whether 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.
Of course. A breast implant can be removed at any time. 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 to discuss a breast lift to tighten up your skin envelope so that your new breasts won’t appear deflated.
In general, yes. Some patients may find things to even be a bit easier the second time around since they know what to expect. If you have already had implants placed below the muscle, then that pocket does not need to be created again. The sub-muscular pocket is typically the source of most recovery pain. 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.