Breast implant removal: Everything you need to know about breast explant surgery

A woman hooking her bra from behind her back

Celebrities and social media influencers are among the thousands of people who are making the choice to explant, or remove, their breast implants. This is a personal decision and each patient will have unique considerations.

Regardless of the motivation, plastic surgeons can guide you through the process and help achieve the appearance that best supports each person’s health and well-being.

How long do breast implants last?

It’s a common myth that breast implants need to be replaced every 10 years. The FDA recommends your first screening ultrasound or MRI at 5-6 years after surgery and then every 2-3 years thereafter. Intact implants without problems don’t need to be removed.

Implants only need to be removed or addressed if a problem occurs related to the implant. This can include position changes, rupture or abnormal scarring called capsular contracture, which would cause distortion or pain of the breast.

The decision to have implants removed is individual and should be made in consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon. The current generation of implants don’t have any long-term durability studies, but I expect them to last well beyond the 10-year mark in most people.

Why would someone remove their breast implants?

The decision to have your implants removed can be for either personal or medical reasons. The most common reasons for implant removal are personal preference about the breast size or shape or due to capsular contracture that causes distortion or pain in the breast.

Another, more rare reason is due to breast implant illness — a collection of symptoms that can occur in patients with implants including fatigue, muscle/joint pains and other psychological symptoms without another identifiable cause.

What happens during breast explant surgery?

Breast implant removal surgery, like breast implant surgery, is usually an outpatient procedure performed with the use of anesthesia. An incision is made along the previous implant scar line and the implant, capsule and any scar tissue is removed.

Other procedures can be done at the same time to address any skin laxity, ptosis, contour deformity or lack of volume. A breast lift or even fat transferred from liposuction can be used to correct these issues.

Risks of breast implant removal surgery

The risks associated with explant surgery are similar to any surgery. You may experience bleeding, infection, numbness, changes in sensation, fluid buildup, scarring and complications related to anesthesia. It’s important to discuss these with your surgeon as you weigh your options.

How long is recovery after breast explant surgery?

Immediately after surgery, your breast incisions will be covered with topical dressings and you’ll typically wear a supportive bra for 4-6 weeks. Your plastic surgeon will provide instructions on how to care for your incisions, medications to take, concerns to watch out for, and the schedule of follow-up appointments. Healing will take several weeks to months.

Do breasts go back to normal after breast explant surgery?

This is a complicated question with multiple variables, including the size of the implants, amount of breast skin laxity, and any other abnormality. Simultaneous procedures, such as a breast lift, can be discussed with your plastic surgeon.

Are follow-up procedures required after you have your breast implants removed?

Yes — you’ll see your plastic surgeon for multiple follow-ups after breast explant surgery. I typically see my patients at one, three, six and 12 weeks following surgery to ensure they’re healing normally without complications.

Is breast explant surgery painful?

Like any surgery, you should expect post-operative pain, but in general, breast explantation surgery is well-tolerated with over-the-counter pain medications and a short course of prescription pain medications.

Look and feel your best

Ohio State’s team of board-certified plastic surgeons are highly experienced in breast augmentation, breast lifts and breast reductions

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