silicone breast implants like these shown are subject to silent rupture
Back when you had breast augmentation, you might vaguely remember your plastic surgeon talking to you about returning for checkups or getting periodic MRIs to ensure your implants are still in good shape. At the time, you may have thought, “no biggie, I have ages before I need to worry about that,” but if it’s been a few years now, you might be wondering if it’s time to call your plastic surgeon.

Our own Dr. Zwicklbauer recently addressed this question via video on our Facebook page, with particular attention to silicone implants. We thought we’d get more in-depth here on our blog to help you better understand why, when, and how often you should get your breast implants checked.

Whether you’ve had your implants for a month or a decade, if something concerns you, schedule an appointment with your plastic surgeon. This goes for aesthetic as well as health-related issues, no matter how big or small.

So, how often should you get breast implants checked?

The FDA recommends having silicone implants screened via MRI three years after your breast augmentation surgery, and every two years thereafter. This is to check for a “silent rupture.” What is a silent rupture? Today’s silicone implants are made with firmer gel that will hold its shape even if the shell breaks. Therefore, a silicone implant rupture is very difficult to detect without the aid of imaging technology; in fact, if a patient does not come in for imaging as recommended, she might have a rupture for many years without even knowing it.

While there is no medical evidence that a rupture causes direct harm to the patient’s health—the silicone gel in modern implants is designed to stay together and not migrate outside the breast capsule—we still consider it best practice to remove a ruptured implant, just to be on the safe side.

If you’ve been avoiding having a breast MRI, you can choose ultrasound instead. It’s nearly equal when it comes to spotting an implant rupture—and we can perform an ultrasound implant check right here in our PSCHR office.

If you’re put off by the idea of spending time in an MRI machine, you’ll be glad to know that we can also check for silent rupture using ultrasound. Both procedures are just about equal in how accurately they can spot a silicone implant silent rupture. Plus, it’s much more convenient for our patients—we can perform your ultrasound implant check right here in our PSCHR office.

Because saline implants do not run the risk of silent rupture (in fact a rupture is usually quite visually apparent), you can wait a little longer between checkups, assuming you are happy with the way your breasts look and you aren’t experiencing any issues to cause concern. For most saline breast implant patients, having your implants checked every 5 to 10 years is reasonable.

Also, regardless of what type of breast implants you have, do go in for scheduled mammograms as recommended by your doctor.  As awkward as they can feel, mammograms will not hurt your breast implants, and mammography professionals are trained in how to perform and read mammograms for augmented patients.

Get your implants checked if you’re experiencing breast pain or swelling, a change in breast shape, or one or both breasts feels too firm

It’s important to pay attention to your breasts and get them checked if you observe anything unusual. Following are some symptoms that can happen and why it’s a good idea to resolve them.

  • Unnaturally hard or round breasts after augmentation, with or without pain, are symptomatic of possible complications, most commonly capsular contracture. About 1 in 10 patients develops this to some degree. Mild cases are treated non-surgically, while more advanced cases will need to be treated with surgery to remove the old implant and breast capsule (scar tissue) and place new implants, if desired. Treating the issue should resolve pain and restore a softer, more natural look.
  • Breast pain accompanied by swelling or fluid buildup is a possible symptom of breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a very rare cancer of the immune cells, which occurs in about 1 in 3,800 to 1 in 30,000 patients with textured Before you get too worried, keep in mind that the vast majority of patients who present with these symptoms do not have BIA-ALCL. Of the very small number of patients who are diagnosed with the disease, nearly all are cured by surgically removing the breast implants and capsule.

The point here is not to ignore any breast changes or symptoms—this is true even if you don’t have breast implants. The earlier you detect and address any issue, the easier it will be to treat. And, if you end up ruling out a problem, you’ll have the peace of mind you deserve.

Also, see your plastic surgeon anytime you have a concern about your breast implants.

Whether you’ve had your implants for a month or a decade, if something is concerning you, schedule an appointment with your plastic surgeon. This goes for aesthetic as well as possible health-related issues, no matter how big or small. It’s far better to discuss your concerns with a physician who can offer real solutions than it is to consult the internet (which, as we all know, is not always the most reliable source).

Common reasons our Hampton Roads breast augmentation patients might come in for a follow-up include:

  • Desired change in implant size or style
  • Concerns about breast sagging or asymmetry after several years
  • General concerns about how their breast implants may be affecting their physical comfort and health

Whatever your reasons for wanting to discuss your breast implants, we welcome you to come in for a consult. We’ll listen carefully and help you find the right solution.

If everything is hunky-dory, you still need to see your plastic surgeon for a checkup every few years

Even if you love your breast implants, it’s important to maintain a relationship with your plastic surgeon and see them in person every few years. Here’s why:

  • Breast implants aren’t meant to last forever. Although we’ve had patients keep the same implants for over 20 years, they are not intended as lifetime devices. Eventually, your implants will probably need to be replaced. The risk of implant rupture increases more quickly after the first 10 years, so at the very least, see your plastic surgeon every decade.
  • Your breasts and body will change over the years. Breast implants can do a lot of great things, but they cannot freeze time. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, weight changes, and the natural aging process will change your breast tissue, and as time goes on, your implants might not look or feel quite the same. The occasional visit to your plastic surgeon will give you the chance to discuss options to maintain or improve upon your results.
  • Your breast implant warranty may expire at some point. While most manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on the implant itself, coverage for revision surgery usually expires after a few years. In the case you were to sustain a silent rupture or have another problem that needed revision surgery, you’ll be glad to discover the problem while your warranty is still in full effect.

Need to have your implants checked? Call our Hampton Roads plastic surgeons.

If this post has prompted you to pick up the phone, we invite you to call us first. Whether or not you had your original surgery with our plastic surgeons at PSCHR, they will be happy to meet with you, listen to your concerns, and discuss what, if any, steps to take. We offer free cosmetic consultations, so call 757-873-3500 today.

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