Old Breast Implants: Replace or remove if no longer right for you. By Dr. Sutton Graham on May 17, 2020

There are estimated to be several hundred thousand American women with breast implants.  Surveys tell us they are happy with their decision and recommend it to friends.  Our practice breast augmentation patients are our best source of referral for new patients, and they are often new patient's best source of information about recovery and their new lifestyle.  However, many implant patients eventually have reason for additional surgery.  Maintanence may be needed.  This is part of the discussion during a good initial consultation; implants don't last forever.  And perhaps patients' bodies change and their desires change.  Reasons vary:

  • Size change, larger or smaller, was a common reason for re-operation in initial FDA approval studies.  This is very uncommon in our practice experience.
  • After decades, it is common for the implant to deflate (saline) or leak silicone gel (gel implants).  These implants should be replaced, and manufacturers warrant their devices.
  • Some women feel that they made an excellent choice years earlier, but now want a smaller or larger breast size.
  • Some women's bodies have changed, possibly through menopause, accompanied by weight gain.  The breasts may be considerably larger and the extra volume of the implant is no longer needed for a nice appearance. 
  • Recently, some women have become concerned that various general body symptoms could be related to their response to implants.  A condition described as Breast Implant Illness is being researched to determine it's cause, proper diagnosis, tests available, and treatment.  This is occasionally a reason women chose implant and capsule removal.
  • Breasts often sag and settle over years time, including the effects of children, breast-feeding, time and gravity.  Implants actually help improve some changes, but implants that were initially well positioned behind breasts that descend for 10-20 years may not be optimal in the future.  New implants and a breast lift are the answer.

Proper treatment is recommended after your individual consultation and evaluation.  Removal will probably not return your breast to its appearance before augmentation surgery.  Dr. Graham has experience performing revision or secondary breast implant procedures.  Some of these are simplier than initial augmentation surgery (new saline implants with no other procedures).  Others mean hours of careful internal dissection and external skin tightening.  Deflation of saline implants makes removal or replacement rather simple, although it is preferable to reoperate soon after spontaneous deflation.  Call us if you think you notice a change and we'll get you in soon.

Leaking silicone gel implants are more difficult to evaluate and treat.  Mammogram does not accurately evaluate whether your gel implants are intact.  Ultrasound may help, but MRI imaging is the best test.  If you have older gel implants, MRI is advised if you are pleased and want to keep them in place.  If you want them replaced or removed entirely, then the MRI scan is not necessary.  The surgery will determine the status of the removed implants.  Old silicone gel implants are typically removed with their surrounding scar capsule intact to minimize spillage of gel material into the surgical site.  Some blogs refer to this as ''en-bloc capsulectomy," and imply it is a new or special technique -- however, it is Dr. Graham's typical appraoch.  Larger incisions are often needed for this procedure, but not if a breast lift is also performed. 

You should be able to enjoy your enhancements for many more years.  Combining implant removal or replacement with breast lift is more involved than initial breast augmentation, but able to give superior results.  It is also possible to combine some liposuction, tummy tuck, or other procedures to give better overall results. 

E-mail or call us if you have questions.


PS.  If you have the original implant identification card and the surgeon's operative note, please bring them to your consultation.


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Dr. Sutton Graham

Aesthetic Center Greenville

Dr. Graham has been performing plastic surgery since 1990. He is dedicated to providing high-quality, personalized treatment, and is affiliated with several prestigious organizations, including:
  • American Board of Plastic Surgery
  • American College of Surgeons
  • American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons

To learn more, contact us online or call our Greenville, SC, office at (864) 676-1707​.

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