Breast implants are not lifetime devices. Implants get old and worn out just like everything else in life, and they should be replaced (exchanged) for a new pair every 10-15 years for silicone, or every 6-8 years for saline.
Exchanging breast implants is not mandatory, but it is a conservative recommendation based on the idea of avoiding problems before they occur, rather than fixing them once they have already happened. If you are perfectly happy with the size, shape, and position of your old breast implants, then you should consider exchanging them at the times noted above.
If you have an issue with your implants other than their age, you may want to learn about Breast Implant Revision surgery instead, or View our photo gallery to see before and after images of women like you who chose to have breast implant revision or exchange.
What are the most common reasons for Breast Implant Exchange?
- The implants are too old. Silicone implants should be replaced every 10-15 years, and saline implants should be replaced every 6-8 years, to avoid problems like asymptomatic rupture and capsular contracture that occur more frequently as breast implants get older. The good news about exchanging your old breast implants for a new pair is that the recovery period is much shorter than the original operation. Most patients are back to work the very next day with very little to no discomfort.
- There is a suspected rupture or deflation. Spontenous rupture of current generation silicone implants is rare, but implant rupture of older implants can still occur. Likewise, saline implants can rupture spontaneous any time, especially when they are older than 6-8 years. Most silicone implant ruptures do not produce any symptoms and may be difficult to diagnose. The only obvious sign may be a achy or squeezing feeling in the breast, but in many cases there may be no symptoms at all. If a saline implant ruptures, it will deflate within a few hours and the loss of volume will be easily seen. If this occurs, it is important to see a plastic surgeon for an implant exchange ASAP! Within 24 hours, your skin and breast tissue will begin to contract and tighten around the deflated implant, and the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be for your surgeon to match the opposite side when he replaces the implant.
- The implants are too small. Implant exchanges for breast implants that are too small is a very common occurrence since most women are overly conservative in their first choice, but fortunately this is one of the easiest problems to fix. The surgery usually takes less than an hour, and most patients can go back to work the very next day with no need for prescription pain pills.
- The implants are PIP’s. Tens of thousands of women received defective implants made by a French company called Poly Implant Prosthese (PIP) in the early 2000’s, and unfortunately many of them don’t even know that they are at risk for exposure to a variety of non-medical grade substances used to manufacture these implants. PIP implants were never approved for use in the United States, so as long as you had your surgery here you are probably not at risk. However, if you or anyone you know got their breast implants in any country other than the USA, they should inquire to their surgeon about whether or not their implants were made by PIP, and if they are they should be replaced ASAP. Click here to learn more.
When can I go back to work after breast implant exchange surgery?
Most patients can return to work within 24-48 hours after surgery as long as they have a job where no heavy lifting or strenuous activity is required.
Is breast implant exchange surgery painful?
Surprisingly, no. Breast implant exchange surgery is usually a totally different experience than your breast augmentation procedure. Most implant exchange patients will be perfectly comfortable with only a few Tylenol, and can return to normal daily activities within 24-48 hours.
Do I get more scars when my implants are replaced?
No. In most cases, the exchange can be performed though the same incision as the original surgery, so you don’t get any new scars.