The breast implants lifespan, according to long-term surveys, is between 10-15 years for most patients. However, the need for reoperation is not just caused by implant failure from “wear and tear,” but also due to a desire for larger size, changes in body weight or breast shape, and rippling.
Some doctors suggest that extending breast implants lifespan, to some extent, can be done through the use of certain designs, which are explained below by experts at the California Surgical Institute.
- Smooth silicone implants—i.e., they are filled with a highly cohesive silicone gel and their outer shell is literally smooth and shiny—are believed to have a lower leak rate than textured and saline implants, which are filled with sterile salt water.
Saline implants are more likely to fold than silicone implants due to the nature of their filler material. Over time, this “wrinkles” affect their stability and can lead to failure.
- Fifth generation silicone implants. Also referred to as gummy bear implants, they have form-stable silicone filler, which does not respond to gravitational effects. But once inside the breast pocket, they are supposed to feel natural and soft to the touch.
Gummy bear implants are believed to last longer than fourth generation silicone implants (liquid type silicone gel) and saline implants.
According to one study, Sientra gummy bear implants have the toughest shell among other brands.
Regardless of the filler material, outer shell, and manufacturer, the consensus is that modern breast implants have notably lower rupture rate compared with previous designs. In fact, anecdotal reports show that the vast majority of patients asking for replacement have non-implant related concerns.
For instance, aging may cause the breasts to sag or the implant’s edges to become visible, which may prompt some women to “downsize” and/or replace their saline with silicone implants.
However, others choose to “upsize” after realizing that their initial implant size no longer complements their now “curvier” or larger body frame.
Palpable rippling is another reason for replacement of implants that are still in good working condition. To address this problem, saline implants might be replaced with silicone implants that are resistant to wrinkles; or downsize to compensate for the lack of soft tissue coverage.
Another way to avoid reoperation is to eliminate factors linked to capsular contracture (scar capsule) such as low-grade infection or contamination at the time of surgery. Daily breast massage is also said to prevent this problem.