Breast implant removal is also known as explantation. Breast implants are planned to last a long time after being placed but they are not life-long devices and usually need to be removed (with or without replacement) at some time in the future after breast augmentation. The average lifespan of a breast implant is 10 to 15 years. Some do not last quite so long, while others last many years longer without problems.
The reasons for removing your implants fall into three main categories; problems with the implant, changes in your breasts, and change of mind regarding implants. More than one reason can be behind your choice. Implant reasons include implant not sitting correctly (malposition), capsular contracture (build-up of thickened, tight scar tissue around the implant), implant rupture, implant discomfort, development of breast implant associated-anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) or breast implant-associated-squamous cell carcinoma (BIA-SCC) (uncommon forms of cancer found in the capsules around breast implants), breast implant illness symptoms attributed to silicone implants. Breast reasons include changes in breast shape and size over time which can be due to pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, weight gain or loss and breast aging. Sometimes, women just no longer wish to have implants as they are at a different stage in their lives.
Breast implants can be simply removed or combined with other breast procedures. You may wish to have your implants replaced or to have fat transfer instead of an implant (lipoaugmentation). If a capsular contracture or significant rupture or other capsule problem is detected, a capsulectomy (removal of the capsule of scar tissue that has formed around the implant) may be needed. If you have laxity and sagging of your breast tissue after removal of the implant or after replacing with a smaller implant or if breast shape was one of the reasons for removing the implant, then a mastopexy (breast lift) may be performed as well.
Light dressings and a support bra will be needed afterward. Support bras are usually advised to be worn between one and three months after surgery. You will also be advised on the care of your breast scars while they heal and fade. The exact aftercare instructions will depend on whether you had implant removal alone or combined with other breast procedures.
Ensure you consider all aspects of a procedure. You can speak to your surgeon about these areas of the surgery in more detail during a consultation.
0.5 to 2.5 hours depending if removal of implants alone or if replacement or other breast procedures are planned
General anaesthesia (most common) or local anaesthesia and sedation, implant removal alone can be done under local anaesthesia if no other procedures are planned
Day surgery unless combined with other procedures that require an overnight stay
Risks can include early risks of surgery such as bleeding, infection, seroma (fluid build-up), wound healing problems, clots in your leg veins and breast risks such as altered sensation of the nipple (usually numbness but can be oversensitivity, usually temporary but can be permanent), asymmetry, recurrence of lax, sagging tissue, loss of tissue including the nipple and areola and poor scarring. If implants are replaced, implant risks such as capsular contracture (tight scar tissue around the implant), implants not sitting in the correct position, implant rupture, development of breast implant associated-anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) or breast implant associated-squamous cell carcinoma (BIA-SCC) (uncommon forms of cancer found in the capsules around breast implants), breast implant illness symptoms are also considerations.
Risks can be reduced by having your surgery at a healthy and steady weight, planning your surgery in relation to pregnancies and your lifestyle, avoiding nicotine in the run-up to and recovery from your surgery, optimizing any health conditions e.g. diabetes and following your surgeon’s aftercare advice.
Your breasts will be swollen, tight, and tender particularly in the first two weeks, but usually up to six weeks. Your breast tissue will gradually soften as you heal and as the swelling goes down. Depending on the exact surgery, you may have to allow some time for the final shape and implant position to take place. You may have to adjust to having smaller breasts and a change in the shape of your breasts. You will need to wear a support bra and look after your scars as your surgeon advised. One to two weeks off work is usual. Return to exercise is after six to eight weeks.
Results are long-lasting but are affected by weight gain, weight loss and hormonal changes such as pregnancy or breastfeeding. The average lifespan of a breast implant is 10 to 15 years so you will need to allow for future surgeries to change your implant if replaced. Breast aging will continue as well. Mammograms and other breast scans can be performed once you have healed but you should notify the radiographer of your previous/current implants and surgery.