Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon Dr. Constance M Chen Offers Tips on Breast Implant Removal

Dr. Constance M Chen

It is important that each woman understands the various procedures for removing an implant.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, about 400,000 women in the United States had breast implant surgery in 2016. About three-quarters of breast implants were placed for cosmetic breast augmentation and the rest for reconstruction following mastectomy. Studies by implant manufacturers, however, have shown that within seven years about half of all implants need to be removed.

“Breast implants do not last a lifetime,” says Dr. Constance M. Chen, a plastic surgeon in New York City. “While some may last for decades, most are removed well before that. Implant manufacturers understand this, which is why implants have a 10-year warranty.”

What kind of problems can implants cause? Implants are foreign bodies that provoke a natural response in which the body creates a barrier of scar tissue around the implant to wall it off and protect any foreign substance from penetrating other parts of the body. This barrier, or capsule, may be soft, flexible, and barely noticeable, or it may become hard and painful, like a shell that develops around the implant. This uncomfortable condition, known as capsular contracture, is among the most common reasons for implant removal.

Other reasons for implant removal include infection, caused by bacteria that proliferates because the implant has no blood supply to fight back; rupture, in which the saline solution or silicone gel that fill the implant leak into the surrounding tissues; and extrusion, in which the skin erodes and the implant pushes through the skin.

The FDA is also collecting data to determine whether or not there is a link between a rare cancer of…

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