Deciding to get breast implants is a big deal, and it can feel both exciting and empowering. However, it may also prompt some practical and logistical questions. Two of the topics we receive most frequently here at HKB Cosmetic Surgery are: How long do breast implants last? And is there a type of breast implants that’s better than others?
Both are perfectly reasonable questions to ask, and it would be our pleasure to provide you with a more individualized answer. To schedule a one-on-one consultation with one of our three highly-skilled, board-certified breast surgeons, either virtually or in-person, reach out to HKB Cosmetic Surgery at any time.
In the meantime, we’re happy to provide more general insight into the two questions referenced above.
How Long Do Breast Implants Last?
There’s one thing we can say with absolute certainty: Breast implants last a lot longer than they used to. That’s because breast implant technology is continuously improving, both because clinical research finds better methodologies, and because surgeons become more adept at what they do.
To that end, we generally tell our patients that today’s breast implants are as durable and as long-lasting as any implants in history; they are made to last, and most patients will never experience any problems with their breast implants.
There are a few particular factors that can play an essential role in determining a breast implant’s longevity. One such factor is the physical character of the breasts themselves, including the soft tissue of the breast.
But an even more important consideration is the type of breast implant, which leads us into the second question.
Which Type of Breast Implant Do You Need?
Indeed, it’s tough to answer how long do breast implants last and which breast implant do I need without distinguishing between the various types of breast implants that are available today.
In discussing different types of breast implants, several characteristics should be noted, all of which may have an impact on overall longevity:
- Smooth vs. textured implants
- Round vs. “shaped” breasts
- Saline vs. gel implants
- Implants with a thick shell vs. implants that are more pliable
We’d recommend asking your breast cosmetic surgeon about each of these categories. Here at HKB Cosmetic Surgery, we’re always eager to make sure our patients are fully informed prior to breast augmentation surgery.
We’ll also note that broadly speaking; there are three types of breast implants available today: Saline implants, silicone implants, and “gummy bear” implants. Allow us to summarise these three options briefly.
Breast Implants: Three Main Options
The first type of implant represents a simple silicone shell, filled with saline water. Shells are inserted into the breast, and then they’re filled up to provide the desired volume. There are a couple of significant advantages to saline implants. One, because shells are inserted and then filled, only tiny incisions are needed. And two, because saline water is sterile, there is little risk to the patient if the implants rupture; the body will naturally absorb that saline water.
Next, we have silicone implants. These implants are filled with silicone gel, and a lot of women find that they look and feel more natural. Historically, these implants have come with greater levels of risk: for a long time, silicone implants ruptured at a higher rate than they do now, and they were taken off the market for several years for additional study. Today, manufacturers have stepped up their game considerably; not only are silicone implants one of the most tested medical devices in the world, but they are also fully FDA-approved and considered to be very safe and low-risk for rupture.
Gummy Bear Implants
There are several different types of silicone implants, and one of the most advanced and effective is the “gummy bear” variant. These are essentially silicone implants that are designed with a tear-drop shape, which makes them very anatomically “natural” in appearance. (Why are they called gummy bear implants? Well, they have a very stable shape, and they’ll maintain that shape even if you cut them in half, much like a gummy candy would.)
The main message we want to give our patients isn’t that one of these options is better than the others. Instead, we want it to be clear that you do have options to understand better which breast implant is right for you.
Is Breast Implant Illness a Thing?
Another common concern pertains to breast implant illness or BII.
Breast Implant Illness is a complaint by patients that they’re implants are making them feel sick. The list of complications from this illness can be quite broad and variable, as it seems to materialize very differently from one patient to the next. Although not currently a recognized medical condition in terms of diagnosis, researchers, plastic surgeons, and the FDA is closely monitoring the potential existence of BII. That said, the surgeons at H/K/B do take these patients’ concerns very seriously and assist them with exploring their options for breast implant removal.
A recognized illness associated with implants is Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a type of T-cell lymphoma. It is very uncommon, but it does exist. This is a form of illness that causes the body to attack its immune system cells, and there is some evidence that links it to a particular type of textured breast implant. Those implants have been recalled and are no longer in use today, but some women who have had them placed over the last few years may still be at risk for potential concern. If you are concerned that your textured breast implants may put you at risk, you should contact your plastic surgeon’s office.
In addition to being quite rare, this condition is also easily treatable. In fact, in 100 percent of all patients who have the illness and receive the prompt diagnosis, a full recovery is made, simply by having those implants removed.
At H/K/B Surgery, we do not use these recalled devices, making our patients’ risk for acquiring BIA-ALCL a non-issue.
What About Breastfeeding?
There’s still another common question that pertains to the longevity of implants, and it has to do with breastfeeding. Are those who have implants still able to breastfeed? And if they do, will it cause their implants to lose some of their lifespans?
There’s a scarcity of research on this question because we don’t know the likelihood of a woman’s ability to breastfeed before having implants. In other words, those women who have difficulty breastfeeding after implants may have had trouble anyway, since many women do struggle with milk production regardless of whether or not they’ve had implants placed. But some recent studies suggest as many as four out of five women with implants can breastfeed without any problem.
Learn More About Your Breast Implant Options
Do you have any additional questions about breast implant longevity, or about potential risks? We’d love to answer them in a more personal setting. Whenever you’d like to schedule a time to talk, simply reach out to the team at HKB Cosmetic Surgery in Huntersville, NC.