Breast augmentation can enhance the appearance of one’s breasts and improve one’s self-confidence and body image. The decision to have your breast implants removed is a very personal one. Oftentimes, patients decide later in life that they no longer want to have implants. Other reasons for breast implant removal include, capsular contracture, implant rupture, or deflation. Depending on your circumstances, Dr. Jessica Belz may recommend implant removal with or without a capsulectomy or a breast lift. During your personalized consultation, your expectations and surgical options will be discussed at length. The procedure itself is typically done as an outpatient surgery under general anesthesia. Dr. Belz will discuss incision patterns and whether temporary drains may be required post-operatively.
What is breast implant removal?
Just as it sounds, this surgery by Dr. Belz removes breast implants placed during a prior augmentation. Dr. Belz may also remove the capsule, the scar tissue that has built up around the implants, if necessary. In most cases, she also performs a breast lift because of the tissue that has been stretched by the implants.
Breast augmentation continues to be the most popular aesthetic surgery in the United States, but the number of women seeking to remove their implants is rising. In 2008, statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons had the number of women having implant removal at 20,967. A decade later in 2018, that number had risen to over 29,000.
What are the common reasons women have their implants removed?
Compared with augmentation, the number of women choosing to have their implants removed is quite low. More common is breast revision surgery to either exchange implants that have ruptured, increase implant size, or correct issues such as asymmetry. For a woman after augmentation, at least one and more likely two or more implant revision surgeries will be necessary over her lifetime.
For women choosing to remove and not replace their implants, these are their typical reasons:
- Capsular contracture — Capsular contracture is the process of excessive scar tissue forming around the implants causing tightness and pain in the chest. The implants are removed through revision surgery, along with most of the excess scar tissue. Most women opt to have new implants placed, however.
- Health concerns — Some women have symptoms of a condition being called “breast implant illness.” Although there isn’t any research to specifically link implants to health outcomes, patients anecdotally report these symptoms: fatigue, memory loss, headaches, joint and muscle pain, hair loss, recurring infections, and swollen lymph nodes. The other concern is the recent recall of textured implants by the FDA (see associated section on that below).
- Age — Some women as they become older don’t want the prospect of their older years having breast implants in place. They simply opt to remove them and have a breast lift. This removes sagging tissue and firms up their breasts and that’s how they want their later years to go.
How is breast implant removal performed?
These are not difficult surgeries. Dr. Belz enters through the original incisions used to place the implants. She then removes the implants. If you have any signs of capsular contracture, where scar tissue continues to build around the implant, the hardened capsule of scar tissue will also be removed. If the scar tissue is still soft, it will likely be left in place.
What will my breasts look like after I remove my breast implants?
After implants are removed, your breasts will not look the same as before you had implants placed. The weight and size of the implants stretch the tissue and cause changes in the rib area.
The appearance of your breasts will depend to a large degree on if you have Dr. Belz perform a breast lift when she removes your implants. A breast lift has the goal of returning the breasts to a higher position on the chest. Lifts remove excess sagging skin and reposition tissue as needed. The nipple/areola complex is usually moved to a higher position, as well.
With a breast lift, your breasts will be smaller, but they will not be sagging and overly flattened. That can be the result if the implants are removed without a breast lift.
"Dr. Belz is the greatest! Very professional, very honest and an excellent surgeon. She explained everything completely and made me feel comfortable. I was dreading having my silicone implants removed- one ruptured after 40 years but with her guidance I decided to have it done. I have not felt this good in a very long time. Her office is lovely and so are her staff. Thank you all for taking such good care of me!" - C.W
What will my recovery be like after having implants removed?
These are not difficult recoveries if you simply have Dr. Belz remove the implants. You’ll be sore on the small incisions for a few days, but you won’t have a lengthy recovery. Your chest will feel different without the implants, but it isn’t a sensation of pain.
As mentioned above, however, most patients having implants removed also request a breast lift so they aren’t left with flattened sagging breasts after the implants are removed. Because there is more tissue repositioning and excision of excess sagging skin, the addition of a breast lift makes these recoveries more involved. You won’t be able to lift anything more than a gallon of milk for about one month. Any heavier lifting or strenuous exercise will need to wait for six weeks after a breast lift.
What is this I’ve heard about lymphoma linked to breast implants?
In July 2019 the FDA announced a mandatory recall of all textured implants with the brand name Biocell made by Allergan. These textured implants have been linked to a very rare form of cancer: anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. In the announcement, the FDA called the cancer “breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma” (BIA-ALCL).
The occurrences of this lymphoma are exceedingly low — of the 40 million women who have had implants only between 300 to 500 have been diagnosed with genuine cases of anaplastic large cell lymphoma — but the news has brought implant removal to the forefront of the public consciousness.
This does not apply to any other implants but the Biocell textured implant from Allergan.