When might implants need to be taken out? Do they always need to be replaced? Although not gauranteed to last a lifetime, breast implants have been known to last a lifetime. However, sometimes they have to be replaced. It is best to anticipate a second surgery at some point during the lifetime. Exchanging implants is a concept that every woman should accept before undergoing breast augmentation. Exchanging might be because there is a problem. Or it might be because the woman wants to make a change.

Here are some of the reasons that women exchange their implants:

  • Leaks. The original silicone implant may have ruptured or might be leaking. Or the original saline implant may have leaked and is now deflated.
  • New product options. Older silicone implants from the 1980’s and early 1990’s are often replaced with newer products. (The older version had thinner walls and was more prone to leaking).
  • New size. Some women find that over time their needs may have changed. Or the body may have changed due to weight changes or pregnancy. This can mean that a larger or smaller size might be desired.
  • Scar tissue. One issue that can arise from breast implants is excess scar tissue. Sometimes the tissue can cause the tissue to feel hard or tight. It might even cause the implant to rupture. One reason women elect to replace their implants is to remove that excess scar tissue.
  • Problem with original surgery. Sometimes problems in healing arise after the original breast implants were inserted. This might be problems with infections that won’t resolve. It could also be too much bleeding. Or it could be tissue that does not heal. These problems may mean a new surgery is needed to correct the issue; this often involves replacing the implants.
  • Better shape. Some women elect to have a new implant inserted in order to change the position. This might mean they new implant is moved to below the muscle, for example.
  • Asymmetry. Correcting asymmetry can be another reason to replace one or both implants. However, you should know that they may never be 100 percent symmetrical – this is normal.
  • Change the fill type. Some women choose to switch from saline to silicone implants or vice versa. This is often done after weighing the pros and cons of each type. For example, some women with saline implants have visible rippling. This is less prevalent with silicone implants. That would be one possible reason for an exchange.
There are many reasons women elect to change their breast implants. That said, there are also times when this is not possible. For example, implants may not be able to be exchanged if:

  • Breast cancer or other growths are found in the breast tissue.
  • There is a current infection.
  • The woman is pregnant.
  • The woman is still nursing her infant.
  • The woman has a weakened or suppressed immune system.
  • There is reduced blood flow. This can occur from prior surgery or from radiation therapy.

How to Prepare For Breast Implant Exchange

You may wonder whether the preparation for breast implant exchange is as extensive as the original surgery. The answer is both yes and no. Much like the first time, the surgeon will need to do an exam. He will ask you a series of questions. This is to ensure that you’re able to undergo the procedure. He will want to know the reasons for the new surgery. He will ask how your health has been since the last one. You will be asked about previous surgeries, pregnancies and breastfeeding, and any previous or current medical conditions. You will need to ensure you are in good health. After the exam, the surgeon will decide the best plan for the next surgery.

Just like the first surgery, you will need to have a realistic expectation of the new result. You will still need to stay away from the listed medications the surgeon provides. (Many medications can cause problems with blood clotting and/or may affect the body’s ability to heal properly).

From the viewpoint of the patient, the primary difference is that the recovery from implant exchange is usually much easier. As such, there will probably not be as much down time to prepare for. (There are exceptions to this; see the sections below).

The Breast Implant Exchange Surgery

The difficulty of the surgery depends on the reason for the breast implant exchange. If the implants are being exchanged for a new fill type or new size, then the process can be straight forward. Usually the surgeon can go through the current scar. He will access the space where the current implant sits. He will then remove that implant. If ruptured, he will also remove any ruptured material. A new implant is inserted and the procedure is done. Since the space already exists for the implant, the process is straightforward.

If the exchange is done for another reason, this can be more complex. Sometimes more work is needed within the breast to ensure that the new result will be as desired. For example, the space that has formed for the implant may need to be tightened. On the other hand, if there are issues with scar tissue or other tightening, some tissue may need to be released or removed. Moving the implant to below the muscle is another example that is a more involved surgery. Each of these options will require more preparation and recovery time. If the implants are exchanged because of theses or other problems with the first surgery, then the best result may require more than one corrective procedure.

Recovery from Surgery

Healing after an implant exchange is usually much easier than the first time. It typically requires little to no downtime. There is usually only minimal bruising and swelling. The space already exists for the implant, so the muscles don’t have to be cut and stretched the second time. In cases where there is additional work, such as removing scar tissue, the recovery may be tougher. It should still be easier than the first time though.

The exception is when the implant is being moved to below the muscle. This means the muscle will need cut and stretched. The body will have to heal from this. In other words, if the original implant was above the muscle and the new one is below it, the recovery will take longer than the first time.

You may be wearing a surgical bra when you go home. You’ll need to get plenty of rest. You will need to have made some preparations to have food and liquids on hand. You’ll be given prescriptions to get filled in advance. Even though the recovery is simpler, you should still expect some bruising, mild swelling, and sensitivity changes.

Breast Implant Exchange Testimonials

11yrs ago I had a breast augmentation surgery with saline breast implants placed above the muscle. I did not research at all, I just went to a plastic surgeon that someone else I knew went to. Initially I was happy because I had breasts but it didn’t take long for me to find a lot of problems. I could really feel the breast implants and saw some rippling on the sides when I would bend forward. They became harder and less “moblie” if that makes sense. Basically they really felt fake. After 2 kids and breastfeeding back to back, my skin was wore out and I needed at breast lift. I started reasearching a year before I even spoke to anyone about it. I immediately found Dr. Brown’s website and was very interested because Dr. Brown specializes in secondary breast augmentation. Northern Virginia at first seemed a little far since I lived in Pennsylvania but I still was very impressed with his website. In November of 06, my one breast implant started leaking. I slowly noticed it shrinking and I had bad rippling. So I new it was time. I made an appointment with Dr. Brown and drove to Northern Virginia. The drive was not bad at all. Only 1 hr. and 45 minutes and the drive was nice. The staff were very friendly and Dr. Brown was so professional and very informative. He spent a great deal of time with me during both my appointments especially when I was trying to decide the right implants size for me. I immediately felt that this was the plastic surgeon to do my procedure. My surgery would not be that easy. I needed implants removed, scarring removed, silicone breast implants placed under the muscle now(previously placed above) and a bilateral breast lift. This is not something I would want just any plastic surgeon to do. It was very easy to find plastic surgeons to do breast augmentation, but if you were looking for secondary or revision breast implants surgery, it was not as easy. His website went into great detail about this subject. The nurses at the hospital where the surgery was performed were so nice and they all told me how Dr. Brown was the best and if they needed surgery he would be the one they would choose. Being a nurse myself, this was so important to hear. Working with surgeons, you really get a feel for what type of person they are and how their patients do afterwards. My surgery went fine, I had some nausea and vomiting after I went back to the hotel in the evening but when Dr. Brown called and found out, he immediately called a prescription in to a nearby pharmacy to help me out. The post op check-ups went very well and again he spent a great deal of time with me since I was not local and could not just “pop in” any time I had a question or problem. The staff were also very helpful with any questions or phone calls I made. My breasts are so soft and look very natural now. I am amazed at the difference. (Just like Dr. Brown told me) Moral of the story: Traveling to Northern Virginia was the best decision I made. It was worth every mile, there is a ton of things to do there and a million hotels to choose from. But most importantly, there is a great surgeon located there! I will soon be going back for my 3 month check up and to get my “after” pictures taken. I can’t wait to see the difference! I already know how much better I look and feel. I am also excited to see Dr. Brown in person and thank him again! K.H.
In June 2003, I had breast augmentation performed by a plastic surgeon (other than Dr. Michael J. Brown) in which I was left with significant asymmetry, nipples that were far too low and a “dent” (nipple overhang) in my right breast. Subsequently, three revision surgeries were required (performed by the same plastic surgeon) with each procedure adding a myriad of additional problems to the mix. The first revision resulted in a severe double bubble and greater breast asymmetry. The second revision neither corrected the asymmetry, the original indentation or the, now, too low crease in the right breast. Further, this procedure added wide, highly visible, palpable scars which did not improve over the next three to six months and which were compromised by the tightness of the stretched skin. The final revision merely compounded the problem of this compromised scar tissue-there was now the possibility of the implant breaking through. I had spent a year and a half being stressed, anxious and obsessed (do I need to say depressed) over worry about what my breasts would look like next. I came to Dr. Brown in the fall of 2003. I was at once put at ease by the unhurried and extensive consultation and reassured by his empathic nature and concern. I was, as well, confident of his clear expertise and experience in plastic surgery. The result of my surgery (November 2003) bore evidence to his skill as a plastic cosmetic surgeon. His surgical skill and technique is even more notable considering the extent of the pre-existing damage that needed to be repaired. Smaller implants were put in to bring my breast into proportion with the rest of my body. The creases in both breasts were raised, the existing scar was excised and a keyhole lift was done to position my nipples properly. I could not be more delighted. I will be moving to Maine in the spring but have already made plans to return to Northern Virginia for additional plastic surgery by Dr. Michael J. Brown. He has earned my trust as a healer, a surgeon and as an exceptionally fine and kind human being. L.A.