Breast implants wear out as they get older and are more likely to develop a crack or hole in the shell of the implant as time passes. Breast implants don’t come with an expiration date like a carton of milk. They are not offered as lifetime devices. It is recommended that at some juncture you replace your old implants.
It is rare for breast augmentation patients to request implant replacement solely based on age, particularly when they are not having any problems with their breasts. Saline implants will deflate when they develop a shell tear, whereas silicone implants will continue to appear normal.
I generally suggest to my patients that they consider exchanging their breast implants under the following circumstances: If you have a breast contracture or breast implant deflation, if you have breast implants over 15 years old and you are considering a breast revision, or if you are having another unrelated plastic surgery procedure during which the surgeon can easily exchange your breast implants.
Is it dangerous to my health if I have old implants?
Not really. Breast implants are not associated with health problems, whether they have a tear in the shell or not. You may suspect otherwise if you do an Internet search, but there is no scientific evidence.
What is the best test to determine whether my implant is intact?
That would be an MRI. This test, unlike a CT scan, does not expose you to radiation.
Do I need to have radiological examinations of my breast implants if they are old?
Patients with old implants and no breast problems usually do not want to get tests done on their implants. An MRI of the breast is not 100 percent accurate at detecting implant problems. Those who are having breast implant issues are better off visiting with their plastic surgeon and discussing options first.
Are old breast implants more dangerous than newer-generation implants?
Not necessarily. Breast implants have improved over the years in the quality of the silicone fill and implant shell, but they are still made from the same material as they always have been. Years ago, breast implants were removed from the market after an “implant scare” started by the media, but they were released back onto the market after studies showed no evidence of harm to a woman’s health. However, see “Meme-type implants,” below.
I have old Meme-type implants. Should these be removed?
Generally speaking, I recommend the removal of these implants because it has been reported that the breakdown of the polyurethane shell of these implants results in a chemical that may be associated with cancer. Standard implants today do not use polyurethane.
I am considering removing old implants—should I have my implant capsules removed as well?
There is some controversy on this issue. A breast implant capsule, if normal, doesn’t necessarily have to be removed. If an older silicone implant has ruptured and there is silicone material around the implant capsule, your surgeon may want to remove some or the entire capsule. Older capsules tend to become thicker and more calcified and brittle in some women, and it is said that thicker capsules may interfere with breast mammography. That is the primary reason to remove implant capsules.
What do you consider an “old” breast implant?
Any breast implant that is 20 years or older.
My breast implants are old and my breasts are contracted. How should I handle this situation?
As your surgeon, I would remove your implants and the implant capsule. I would also consider changing the implant pocket to be below the muscle (if it is on top of the muscle) and lifting the breast if desired.
Can my old breast implants be removed simply under local anesthesia?
It depends. Intact implants are simple to remove. If the capsule needs to be removed, this complicates things and requires more time, expense, and anesthesia. Silicone implant removal is usually more involved than the saline variety.
My breast implants are old and I know I need surgery, but I’m afraid. What should I do?
Seek the counsel of a trusted breast revision surgeon and have your implants removed or replaced. It’s not nearly as complicated as you would think, and often patients take advantage of this time to make their breasts even better.