According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (A.S.P.S.), breast augmentation was the top female cosmetic surgery in 2010, with 296,000 surgeries performed. Plastic surgery for breast implants has become increasingly popular.
Some women, however, experience problems with their implants and others simply don’t like the results. Some women who had previous breast augmentation feel their breasts no longer look natural as they have gotten older or gained weight. This causes them to feel self-conscious. Of course, gravity can take its toll as well!
Whatever the reason, breast implant removal, also known as breast explanation, can often be a simple solution. But there can be risks and complications you need to be aware of before making your decision. What will your breasts look like afterwards? If you have no extra procedures done, such as a breast lift or implant replacement, you may be disappointed with the look of your breasts after breast implant removal.
Common reasons for removing breast implants
First, let’s look at some of the most common reasons for breast implant removal:
- Deflation, rupture, leakage or shifting of the implant.
- Failure or rejection of the implant.
- Ongoing infection.
- Excessive breast stiffness due to capsular contracture (scar tissue that forms around the implant).
- Necrosis (dead tissue forms around the implant).
- Breast cancer or another disease.
- Ongoing pain or discomfort.
- Dissatisfaction with the results of breast augmentation.
- Implants caused asymmetry (uneven appearance).
- Breasts enlarged after pregnancy, breast feeding, aging or weight gain and the extra breast volume is no longer desirable.
- Desire to change the size of the implant (for larger or smaller breasts).
Fortunately, it is possible to correct most medical and personal (or cosmetic) complications with breast implant removal. If you are contemplating breast implant removal for any reason, you should discuss all of the options and potential complications with your doctor so you know what to expect.
How is breast implant removal done?
Basically, you have four options – deflation of the implant, breast implant removal, downsizing the original implant, and removal or downsizing with a lift. So you can deflate them, take them out completely or insert smaller implants.
If you have a deflated saline breast implant on one side, you can leave it in place. Unless there is infection, there’s no health risk or need to remove it unless you want it replaced. You can also opt for deflation of the other side to improve the symmetry. This is an in-office procedure. The liquid in the implant is similar to that which occurs naturally in our bodies and is absorbed without a problem. The sudden dose of saline water may cause you some headache and nausea, but this goes away in 24-48 hours.
Explantation is actually quick and easy and can be done in as little as 30 minutes under conscious sedation or general anesthesia. The exact procedure will depend on how your implants were placed during your original surgery. The explantation can be done through a very small incision, most likely through your original incision. The capsule itself does not have to be removed and should shrink down to almost nothing within a month or two. Keep in mind that, once you remove the implant, your breast tissue may become loose and saggy because the implant is no longer there to support the tissue.
Maybe you have a small body frame and are unhappy with the results of your breast augmentation. They make you look unbalanced or top-heavy. The ideal situation would have been to choose a smaller implant size in the beginning. However, a revision can be done to downsize the implants and is usually a combined with a breast lift. While not necessarily an easy procedure, the results can be satisfying. The surgeon will remove the larger implants, replace them with appropriate-sized implants and then design the breast lift over the new implants. It may take several tries to get it just right. Once the shape is ideal, the extra skin is removed and the breast is tightened and lifted. You may also have a high profile saline implant. If you exchange it with a low profile silicone implant, even one with the same volume, it will produce a different look.
Successful breast implant removal is affected by the amount of breast tissue left over. If breast implant removal or downsizing makes your breast look deflated, you may also need a mastopexy or breast lift. Another option is to place a smaller implant. These procedures can correct the disparity between the amount of breast tissue left after removing the implant and the extra envelope of skin which could make your breast look droopy. The excess skin is removed and the nipple/areola lifted to restore the breast to a better and more youthful position.
Are there any breast implant removal complications?
As with any surgical procedure, you may experience a potential complication with breast implant removal.
- You may develop an infection.
- There may be swelling.
- The muscle may adhere to the skin and scar tissue may form. (Gentle massage may help and a compression bra may encourage skin shrinkage.)
- If large implants are removed, you may experience sagging or be unhappy with the resulting shape and nipple position. (A mastopexy (breast lift) or placement of smaller implants may solve these problems.)
- The results may not be what you hoped for.
What is the cost to remove breast implants?
The cost of breast implant removal will depend on whether you intend to replace the implants, and what condition the capsule around the implant is in.
Deflating an intact implant is done by inserting a sterile needle through the skin and purposefully deflating it, allowing the sterile saline solution to be absorbed by your body. This is done under local anesthesia and takes only minutes. It should be done by a plastic surgeon who can handle any potential complications such as infection. The cost of this procedure ranges from $300 to $500.
Undamaged breast implant removal without replacement can usually be done under local or light conscious sedation and is relatively inexpensive. The area is numbed, an incision is made, the implant is popped out, and the incision is closed. This can usually be done in the surgeon’s office for under $1,000.
If your silicone implant has stiffened or calcified, the surgery will be more costly. The necessity of removing the capsule or scar tissue at the same time will add to the operating room time and to the total cost. The costs range from $2,500 to $5,000 depending on what type of facility the surgery is performed in.
If you are exchanging, or downsizing, your implants, the cost will range from $4,000 to $7,000.
If you are also having a breast lift at the time of your breast implant replacement, you can expect to spend several hours in the operating room and the costs will range from $5,000 to $18,000 depending on your surgeon and your geographic location.
It’s important to note that most saline implants carry a 10 year manufacturer’s warranty. If the reason you are having breast implant removal is due to leakage or some other defect, ask you doctor to check your records and file a claim. The warranty will cover the cost or removal and replacement.
Remember that your health insurance should cover a breast implant removal done for medical reasons (rupture, capsular contracture, etc).
The results of breast implant removal will vary from one patient to another but most women find the results worthwhile. Both successful breast augmentation and revision require the plastic surgeon to have both medical and artistic expertise. Speak with several plastic surgeons, understand your options, and ask to see breast implant removal before and after photos before you make any decisions.