The cost of breast implant surgery is no small investment. Depending on your geographical location, the surgical facilities, and the plastic surgeon’s experience, you may end up paying anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 or more. Cutting corners on cost is not necessarily wise if you want to be pleased with the results for years to come.

Which begs the following questions: How long should I expect these breast implants to last? And do you really get what you pay for?

As a general rule, breast implants do not require regularly scheduled maintenance, but you should expect that they will need to be replaced after a certain number of years. There are a number of things that may occur to require implant replacement.

Rupture is perhaps the most obvious and most common reason for breast implant replacement. Implant rupture is usually sudden and noticeable due to immediate change in size and shape of the breast tissue. Rupture may be due to trauma, but can also simply be caused by defects in the implant material used. It is easier to tell when a saline implant has ruptured than a silicone implant. Saline is readily absorbed by the body and the loss of breast size and shape is immediately obvious. Silicone rupture can be more “silent” and, as a result, more dangerous. Silicone material may remain in the chest wall for a longer period of time an the rupture may only be obvious on an incidental mammogram.

Leakage is a slow process in which implant material is lost over a period of time. The breast tissue may look or feel different, but it may not happen until months or years after the leakage started. Once again, silicone leakage is more dangerous than saline and less evident. Implants that are leaking need to be replaced as soon as possible.

An additional reason for implant replacement may be the occurrence of capsular contracture. This phenomenon occurs as the tissue around the implant heals. If excessive scar tissue forms within the chest cavity and shrinks around the implant, it will end up feeling hard and looking unnatural. The skin may pucker or have divots, two telltale signs of capsular contracture that may necessitate implant replacement.

Many patients and physicians talk about replacing implants in 10 to 15 years. While this is not a hard and fast rule, it may apply in many situations. Implant materials used 10 or 15 years ago were not as durable as the materials used today and may breakdown. Also, women that change their mind about breast augmentation usually do so within 10 or 15 years of the date of their initial surgery. This type of implant removal is based on patient preference and does not reflect implant stability or security.

In general, the more experience your plastic surgeon has and the better quality of implant materials used, the longer your breast implant will last. Dr. Pittman is a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience in breast augmentation and will be happy to discuss the pros and cons of each type of breast implant material with you.