How safe are breast implants?

How safe are breast implants?

07th Feb 2018

Breast implants are artificial objects that are used for augmenting the breasts. Women with smaller breasts often get implants to enhance their breasts. Breast implants are inserted through incisions and placed under or above the breast muscles. Breast implant surgery is a major operation. Many patients wonder whether breast implants are safe.

Breast implants have an impressive history of safety and effectiveness. The FDA has approved breast implants for breast augmentation. There are two types of breast implants: silicone and saline. While both of these implants are safe for use, there are certain risks involved.

Safety information

Breast implants are prosthetic devices. They are used to increase the size of the breasts and enhance their shape. If your breasts are smaller or poorly shaped, you may consider undergoing breast implant surgery. Silicone breast implants are more commonly used than saline implants.

Silicone breast implants are made of a silicone shell that comes pre-filled with silicone gel. On the other hand, the saline implant is a made of a silicone shell that is filled with saline solution after inserting it into the breast. Some people are unable to differentiate between silicone implants and silicone injections. Keep in mind that silicone implants are safe and approved by the FDA. On the contrary, silicone injections come in the form of fluid and are illegal and dangerous for breast augmentation.

Breast implants have a good history of safety and have been in use for several decades now. Every year, hundreds of thousands of women get breast implants to achieve their aesthetic goals. The breast implants produced during the last ten years are relatively more stable and deliver excellent results. Studies indicate that there are little risks of systematic illnesses associated with modern breast implants.

Some people believe the misconceptions that breast implants cause cancer. The reality is that breast implants are not linked with cancer. The FDA has used a rigorous process for approval of breast implants, which included many years of clinical trials and investigations. However, this doesn’t mean there is no risk associated with breast implants.

Whether breast implants can pose a risk to you depends on your existing health condition to a greater extent. During the pre-operative consultation, the plastic surgeon will discuss the benefits and risks with you. The surgeon will also assess your health and help you do a risk/benefit analysis. Since breast implants are used for cosmetic reasons, you should never take a chance on your health. If the risks are more than the benefits for you, you must avoid the intervention.

Risks and complications

Even though breast implants are safe and not associated with long-term complications in most patients, they are not free of risks. The risks include rupture or leakage of the implants, capsular contracture, infection, change in or loss of breast sensation, abnormal scarring, seroma, hematoma, and anesthesia complications.

Implant rupture or leakage

Breast implants are not permanent objects. Whether you are getting silicone or saline implants, they are exposed to rupture and leakage. The normal life of breast implants according to manufacturers is a minimum of ten years. However, most breast implants last for more than ten years. Breast implants will ultimately rupture or leak.

When an implant rupture or leakage happens, it does not cause health problems. Saline implants contain a sterile water solution, which is completely safe for your health. If the implant ruptures or leaks, your body will absorb the liquid naturally. Also, when a silicone implant ruptures, the silicone gel remains within the implant shell in most cases. Even if it gets out of the shell, it will remain within the implant pocket and will not pose any health risks to you.

While a rupture or leaking breast implant does not trigger health problems in the short run, they may lead to problems in the long run. Hence, it is important to detect a ruptured or leaking implant and have it removed or replaced. A ruptured saline implant can be easily detected because the breasts become deflated right away, but it is hard to detect a ruptured silicone implant because the shape or size of the breasts does not change even after the rupture. To detect a ruptured silicone implant, the patient has to get an MRI.

Capsular contracture

Capsular contracture is a complication that may happen after breast implant surgery. The surgery involves incisions, which ultimately turns into scars. Capsular contracture occurs when the scar tissue starts to contract and squeeze the breast implants. The continuous contraction can change the shape of the breasts, making them look abnormal. It can also create physical pain and discomfort for the patient.

To treat capsular contracture, the patient will be required to undergo a surgery that would involve removal of the implants along with the scar tissue. The surgery to treat capsular contracture is a major operation. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia, and the surgeon uses the original incisions to access and remove the implants and the scar. Of course, the patient can get new implants in a future surgery.

Capsular contracture is a major problem. It happens for different reasons. Chief among the reasons is the use of implants that are too large for your breast dimensions and placing of the implants over the breast muscle. Breast implants come in different sizes. It is important to choose the right size to avoid complications like capsular contracture. Also, placing the implants under the breast muscles can prevent the problem.

Implant infection

Like all other invasive procedures, there is a risk of infection after breast implant surgery. The risk is unusually high if your immune system is weaker. The infection can be mild, moderate, or severe, or it can affect the implants. Mild to moderate infections are often treated with oral antibiotics, but acute infection is treated via IV medications. The most dangerous situation arises when the infection reaches the implants.

When the implant is infected, it can cause many health problems. To prevent the health issues, it is necessary to remove the implants and disinfect the implant pocket and surrounding areas. This is done during a new surgery. The surgeon will open the incisions used for inserting the implants and carefully remove the infected implants from the breasts. The implant pocket and nearby regions will then be disinfected. You can get new implants a few months after the implant removal surgery.

Change in or loss of breast sensation

Breast implant surgery is traumatic. During the operation, the sensory nerves and other tissues may be injured or damaged, which can lead to a change in or loss of your natural breast sensation. In most cases, the change or loss of breast sensation is temporary. After some weeks or months, your natural breast sensation will gradually return. However, it can also be permanent in rare cases.

Other risks

During the surgery, your milk ducts and glands may be damaged or injured, which can hamper your breastfeeding capability. There is also a risk that fluids or blood may be discharged from your breasts, causing seroma or hematoma. While most patients get normal scars after the procedure, the risk of abnormal and more prominent scarring cannot be ruled out.

How to reduce the risks

The risks of breast implant surgery can be reduced or prevented by having the surgery performed by an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon. Also, the patient must be careful during the recovery period to reduce the risks. It is also important to choose a suitable breast implant type and size to decrease risks like capsular contracture. Be sure to keep the incisions clean and avoid touching them to help prevent possible infections. Also, avoid engaging in physically strenuous activities like jogging, exercises, jumping, weight lifting, stretching, and bending for six weeks after the procedure.


Implants are prosthetic devices that are inserted and placed into the breasts to increase their size. The implants come in different sizes, shapes, and types. Breast implants have a good history of safety and are approved by the FDA for breast augmentation. However, like all other procedures, breast implant surgery is not risk-free. The risks associated with the implants and the procedure has been discussed above. The patient must discuss the risks with the surgeon during the pre-operative consultation. You should undergo surgery only when the benefits are more than the risks.

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