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Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Understanding the Implications of Breast Implant Surgery

Contact: (0191) 282 0194 - Plastic Surgery Breast Nurse

IntroductionShow [+]Hide [-]

This information explains the implications of breast implant surgery. It should be read in addition to the information specific to your planned surgery.

Implant Life ExpectancyShow [+]Hide [-]

Breast implant surgery is a lifelong commitment. Breast implants do have a life expectancy of approximately 10 -15 years, after which time they may need replacement. If the implant has not changed in any way, it does not automatically need replacing. However, it is important to realise that the implants will almost certainly need changing at some point during your lifetime.

Breast implants are made in a variety of designs although there are two main types – fixed size and adjustable size. Adjustable size implants have a port and filling tube so that saline can be added or removed to alter the size. Some of these (known as tissue expanders) are designed to be temporary until the correct size is achieved and will then be changed for fixed size implants. Other adjustable implants are designed to be left in place permanently once the correct size has been achieved. Usually, the port and filling tube can be removed if you want them to be.

Capsular ContractureShow [+]Hide [-]

A breast implant is a “foreign body”, so it is normal for your body to try and isolate the implant. This is done by producing a “capsule” of scar tissue around the implant. In up to 10% of patients, the capsule will become very tight, feeling abnormally hard and causing pain within the breast.   Modern implants have a special “textured” surface that helps to prevent this happening.

Occasionally, this scarring is so uncomfortable that the implant will have to be removed with the scar tissue - usually a new implant is inserted at the same time.

Infection around the ImplantShow [+]Hide [-]

If infection develops around an implant, it can be difficult to treat because it is contained in the “capsule.” Antibiotics are given but if these are not quickly effective, it may be necessary to temporarily remove the implant. Antibiotic treatment would continue and replacement of the implant would be postponed for several months. This allows the infection to be fully treated.

Cosmetic AppearanceShow [+]Hide [-]

The appearance of a breast with implants is affected by factors such as age, thickness of breast tissue and type of implant used.

Implants tend to create “youthful” looking breasts that may be less natural in appearance with increasing age. In patients with very thin breast tissue, creasing and folds in the implant may be apparent. There can also be a rippling effect seen through the skin, which is more likely when saline implants are used than those with silicone gel. Implants are designed in a variety of different shapes e.g. “round” and “tear drop” to meet the needs of individual patients.

Pregnancy and BreastfeedingShow [+]Hide [-]

Pregnancy does affect the size and appearance of breasts. After pregnancy, the skin may stretch and implants may not create the same appearance as before the pregnancy.

Breast augmentation does not usually interfere with breastfeeding and there is no evidence to date that silicone is transferred into the breast milk. 

If you have undergone a mastectomy procedure for breast cancer and have an implant for breast reconstruction, breastfeeding will not be possible with the affected breast.

Ruptured/leaking implants and Silicone safetyShow [+]Hide [-]

This is when the outer silicone shell of the implant is punctured and the silicone gel contents could potentially be released into body tissue. Modern cohesive gel implants have a firm consistency (similar to a set jelly) that is very unlikely to disperse in significant amounts. Older implants contained a more fluid silicone, which was likely to drain out. Leaked silicone can result in benign lumps occurring in the surrounding tissue. These are known as “silicone granulomas.”

There have been concerns raised by patients and doctors in the past as to whether silicone was harmful to tissue – particularly in relation to autoimmune disease. An Independent Review Group Report: Silicone Gel Breast Implants (1998) did not find any evidence of adverse effects.

The Department of Health continues to monitor all new research into the subject.

Breast cancer and MammographyShow [+]Hide [-]

Breast implants do not increase or decrease the risk of developing a new breast cancer or a recurrence of a previous breast cancer. The presence of breast implants does affect mammography - screening for breast cancer with X rays - you must tell the radiographer if you have breast implants so that a special technique can be used.

For patients who have undergone breast reconstruction (providing all the breast tissue was removed during mastectomy), there is no indication for performing mammograms on the reconstructed breast. Follow up mammography should continue (as requested by the breast surgeon) in the remaining natural breast.
It is important to be “Breast Aware” before and after implant surgery. You should look at your breasts in the mirror and feel their shape at least once a month (preferably in the middle of your menstrual cycle if you have periods).  This will help you to become familiar with what is normal for you. Any new lumps or changes in the skin of the breast should be reported to a doctor.

Registration of Breast ImplantsShow [+]Hide [-]

With patients’ consent, the surgeon may send information about the operation and the type of implant(s) used to the National Breast Implant Registry so that useful information about breast implants can be collected. If this happens, you will be asked to sign a special consent form and you are entitled to keep a copy of this form.

If you require any further information or advice, please contact any of the following:

Plastic Surgery Breast Nurse RVI
(Monday – Friday 8.00am – 5.00pm)
Tel: 0191 282 0194

Sister or Nurse in Charge – Plastic Surgery Outpatient Department RVI
(Monday – Friday 8.00am – 5.00pm)
Tel: 0191 282 4228

Sister or Nurse in Charge – Ward 47 RVI
(at any time)
Tel: 0191 282 5647

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