How Long Do Breast Implants Last?
When breast implants returned to the U.S. market in 2006, it wasn’t long until breast augmentation once again became the most popular cosmetic surgery in America. The new silicone gel implants provided a greater variety of shapes and sizes, along with a thicker, more cohesive silicone and shell to provide greater longevity and, hopefully, safety in case of a rupture.
From my own experience, it was not long in my practice until silicone overtook saline as the breast implant of choice, and it still is to this day.
But how long can you expect your breast implants to last? We’ll explore that question in this article.
How long do saline breast implants last?
It’s always been easy to forecast how long saline implants will last.
The rate of leakage seems to climb for most after ten years. However, that doesn’t mean everyone with saline implants will start leaking at that point. When saline leaks, you generally know it. The body safely absorbs the salt water and the deflation in breast shape, size and volume is clear.
So, in summary, saline breast implants typically last around ten years before they need replacing. This isn’t true for everyone, but it’s a good benchmark.
How long do silicone breast implants last?
The longevity of silicone implants is much harder to pinpoint. This is because even when there’s a leak the silicone gel stays in the pocket (unlike the saltwater in saline implants, the body cannot absorb silicone gel).
Even when we examine a patient, it can be hard to tell if a silicone implant is leaking.
As such, the FDA now recommends an MRI five years after your surgery and every 2-3 years thereafter to see if the implant is intact. For the last generation of silicone implants before 1992, we recommend exchanging the implants after ten years. But the new implants from post-2006, which have a thicker shell and more cohesive silicone, should last longer. The question is, do they?
One of the three silicone breast implant manufacturers, Allergan, is now recommending a swap at ten years. The other two manufacturers are still on the fence.
While, initially, I thought ten years might be a self-serving tactic to generate repeat custom, I am actually starting to agree with it. I have had a number of silicone breast implant patients, who are very happy with their results and report no issues, find leaks during a routine MRI screening at about 12 years. If 12 years is when we see the leak, then it must have begun sooner – so Allergan’s suggestion of replacements every ten years makes sense.
My breast implants are nearly ten years old, what should I do?
If you have saline implants, it’s okay to wait and see what happens. If the implants do eventually leak, it’s not a big deal as it’s just salt water, which presents no risk to your health.
For silicone, you may want to be more proactive about removing or replacing your implants as they age. This is because it is much easier to swap a non-ruptured breast implant than a ruptured one.
Even if everything is fine, you might want to consider changing an older set of breast implants if you’re having another surgery, such as a tummy tuck or breast lift. Taking advantage of “already being on the operating table” means there’s just one recovery period. Plus there are often cost savings for combining surgical procedures.
The good news is that a simple implant exchange is an easy recovery. Most patients have minimal discomfort and are back to common-sense activities within a day (the gym will have to wait a few weeks, though).
When I speak with patients considering an implant exchange, I often say, “The garage was built years ago, we are just changing the car”. The only time this might not be the case is if other work is done, such as scar tissue removal or release.
If you’re a bit of a couch potato (no judgement!), your implants may last longer than, say, a kickboxer’s.
Nonetheless, these are hearty, strong devices and I encourage my patients to live their lives as they normally would. Eventually, they will leak or break down, but they are meant to enhance life, not diminish it.
Nothing is forever and implants will eventually fail but you can set yourself up for success. To help, here are a few takeaway tips:
- Find a well-qualified breast augmentation surgeon who will help you make common sense decisions today that will help you later in life
- An appropriately sized implant, relative to your body, will be far easier to maintain in the future
- Be proactive in replacing older implants, especially with silicone gel implants
If you are concerned or unclear about how to proceed with older breast implants, please feel free to reach out for advice. We are happy to help.