What are the main risks of breast augmentation surgery?

Breast Augmentation Risks

Thousands of women safely undergo breast augmentation surgery and breast implant surgery every year. However, there are limitations and risks to any surgery, including breast implant surgery. These include, but are not limited to, the need to replace the implants in the future and implant deflation. There are other risks including capsular contracture, permanent numbness of the nipples, asymmetry and future surgery. Despite the recent controversy, several large studies have shown that there is no conclusive evidence that women with breast implants are at risk for connective tissue or immune diseases.

Breast Implant Replacement

Nobody can tell you the exact length of time that your breast implants will last. You cannot expect the breast implants to last forever. Women may need to have the implants replaced in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years; the time is variable with each patient.

Breast Implant Deflation

The breast implant may leak from the shell or from the fill valve. If the breast implant leaks, the saline is not harmful and is absorbed by the body. With any breast implant leakage, the implant(s) will need to be replaced. Usually the same incision can be used and the surgery is much less involved and therefore less painful. Recovery is usually much quicker as it is just a matter of removing the deflated implant and replacing it with a new implant.

Most patients will purchase or their plastic surgeon will offer an extended 10 year manufacturer's warranty for implant leakage that is valid across the United States.

Capsular Contracture

The body normally forms a membrane around the breast implant; this is called the breast pocket or capsule. Normally the capsule stays soft and pliable. However, capsular contracture can occur and the capsule becomes thickened and hard. The breast implants will feel firm or hard and may have a different shape than what one had initially. Severe capsular contracture can occasionally be painful.

Additional surgery may be required to remove the capsule (scar tissue). This is not covered under warranty and would be an additional cost.

Loss of Nipple Sensation

After breast implant surgery, temporary numbness can occur which usually resolves in a few weeks, however, sometimes it can take months or up to 1 year. Eventually, almost all women will regain normal feeling in due course. Permanent numbness of the nipples is rare but can happen. Hypersensitivity can also occur after the surgery but usually resolves with time.

Breast Cancer Detection

There is no evidence to suggest that breast implants increase the risk of breast cancer or hide cancers. Breast self exams can still be performed and your doctor will still be able to perform breast examinations.

It may be more difficult to take and interpret mammograms. This may be a consideration for women with a family history of breast cancer or other individual considerations. An ultrasound or MRI of the breast or breast biopsy may be required if the mammograms are inconclusive.

There have been several large multicenter studies that have conclude that women with breast implants are at no higher risk of developing breast cancers or for detection of breast cancer at a later stage than women without breast implants.

There are other risks that will be discussed with you during your consultation. It is important to raise any questions or concerns that you have with your Plastic Surgeon during your consultations.