How long do breast implants last?

Breast augmentation patients often ask me, “How long do breast implants last?” Breast implants are not designed to last a lifetime. Their longevity varies based on implant type, individual lifestyle choices, and adherence to post-operative care. On average, you can expect breast implants to last between 10 to 20 years, although it’s not uncommon for them to remain intact for over 25 years in some cases. It’s crucial to recognize that breast implants do not have an expiration date; however, they are not considered lifetime devices by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Role of Implant Type

The type of breast implant can impact the device’s lifespan. The two primary types of implants are silicone and saline. Silicone implants, often preferred for their natural look and feel, are durable and likely to last on the longer end of the lifespan spectrum. Saline implants, capable of being inserted uninflated and filled once in place, might not last as long as silicone implants but still offer a reliable option. Today’s silicone implants contain a cohesive gel that significantly reduces the risk of leakage into the body if the implant ruptures. I prefer smooth, round silicone implants, which offer the most natural look, feel, safety, and longevity.

Signs That It’s Time for a Change

Several signs may indicate the need to replace or adjust breast implants, including changes in breast shape or size, discomfort, visible rippling, a feeling of firmness, or simply wanting to have a different size. An implant rupture is another clear signal for replacement, with saline implant ruptures typically resulting in rapid deflation and silicone implant ruptures being less immediately noticeable. Imaging tests can help detect these conditions early, even if no external symptoms exist.

Maximizing the Lifespan of Your Breast Implants

Adhering to the following guidelines can help maximize the longevity of your breast implants:

  • Follow your surgeon’s post-operative instructions: Proper care immediately after surgery is vital for recovery and long-term outcomes.
  • Maintain a stable weight: Significant weight fluctuations can affect the appearance of the implants.
  • Attend regular check-ups: Ongoing assessments are essential for monitoring the condition of your implants.
  • Perform routine breast health self-exams: Continue to monitor your breast tissue with regular self-exams.

Recognizing the Need for Implant Replacement

While breast implants can significantly enhance appearance and confidence, they may not last forever. Recognizing the signs that suggest the need for implant replacement is crucial for maintaining both aesthetics and health. Here are some key indicators that it might be time to consider replacing your implants:

Capsular Contracture

Capsular contracture occurs when the scar tissue that naturally forms around the implant tightens and squeezes it, causing discomfort, pain, and an unnatural, often ball-shaped appearance. This can make the breasts feel unusually hard and look asymmetrical. Capsular contracture is one of the most common complications following breast augmentation and a frequent reason for implant replacement; it’s still a fairly rare outcome. A 2013 systematic review published in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgery suggests that just 3.6% of breast augmentation patients had capsular contracture. 

Implant Rupture

An implant rupture happens when the outer shell of the implant breaks. This leads to a noticeable deflation in saline implants as the body safely absorbs the saline solution. Silicone implants, however, may not show immediate signs of rupture due to the cohesive nature of the gel. Silicone ruptures might only be detectable through imaging tests but can sometimes manifest through symptoms like breast shape changes, pain, or a tingling sensation.


Rippling refers to the implant’s visible or palpable wrinkling on the breast’s surface. This issue is more common with saline implants, especially in patients with thinner breast tissue. Rippling can affect the appearance of the breasts and might be a sign to consider replacing the implants with a different type or adjusting their position.

Implant Malposition

Over time, implants may shift from their original position, leading to asymmetry, discomfort, or an unnatural appearance. This malposition can result from gravity, physical activity, or changes in breast tissue. Replacing or repositioning the implants can restore a more balanced look.

Changes in Breast Tissue and Skin

Natural aging, hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and significant weight changes can all affect breast tissue and skin elasticity. These changes might lead to sagging or stretching of the skin around the implants, altering the original appearance of breast augmentation. In such cases, patients might opt for implant replacement along with a breast lift to address these changes and rejuvenate their appearance.

Understanding these signs and staying vigilant about changes in your breasts can help ensure that you take timely action, maintaining the beauty and health of your breast augmentation results. Regular consultations with your plastic surgeon will also help you monitor the condition of your implants and decide on the best course of action.

Breast Explant Surgery

Explant surgery, the process of removing breast implants, is a decision made for various reasons, including complications, personal preference, or health concerns. Whether you’re experiencing issues with your current implants or simply wish to return to your natural breast size, understanding what explant surgery entails is crucial for making an informed decision.

Reasons for Explant Surgery

Patients consider explant surgery for several reasons:

  • Health and Comfort: Complications such as capsular contracture, implant rupture, or persistent discomfort can necessitate the removal of implants.
  • Aesthetic Preferences: Changes in personal aesthetic preferences or dissatisfaction with the appearance of implants can lead to the decision to have them removed.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Significant changes or a desire to return to natural breast tissue for personal or health reasons.
  • Medical Recommendations: In rare cases, health concerns or findings from regular check-ups may lead to a medical recommendation for implant removal.

The Explant Procedure

Explant surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia. The process can vary depending on the reasons for removal, the type of implants, and whether any additional procedures are needed, such as a breast lift to address sagging tissue post-removal. The common steps include:

  • Incision: The surgeon usually makes an incision along the original scar from the breast augmentation surgery to minimize additional scarring.
  • Implant and Capsule Removal: The implant is carefully removed from the breast. In cases of capsular contracture or to ensure complete removal of silicone material, the surgeon may also remove the capsule of scar tissue surrounding the implant.
  • Additional Procedure: If necessary, additional procedures like a breast lift (mastopexy) are performed to improve the breast’s appearance post-explantation.
  • Closure: The incisions are closed with sutures, and the area is bandaged. Drains may be placed to remove excess fluid.

Recovery and Aftercare

Recovery from explant surgery varies with the individual and the extent of the procedure. Patients generally expect some soreness, swelling, and bruising, which gradually subsides over a few weeks. Following the surgeon’s post-operative care instructions is essential for a smooth recovery and optimal healing. This includes wearing a supportive bra, managing pain with prescribed medication, and attending follow-up appointments to monitor healing.

Considering Breast Augmentation?

If you’re contemplating breast augmentation, experiencing complications, or simply wish to explore your options for implant replacement or removal, we’re here to guide you. Our experienced plastic surgeons at Plastic Surgeons of Northern Arizona are dedicated to providing personalized care that aligns with your unique needs and aesthetic goals. We understand the importance of feeling confident and informed about your decisions regarding breast implants. Take the first step towards ensuring the longevity and satisfaction of your breast augmentation journey, and book a consultation with us today!

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