Can you remove breast implants?

Patients may choose to have their breast implants removed for a number of reasons.

Although breast implants continue to form part of popular cosmetic and reconstructive treatments, some women choose to have them removed after time. Read on to find out more about what the procedure involves and why some people choose to go ahead with it…

Why would one choose to have their breast implants removed?

When it comes to breast implant removal, there are generally three broad groups of people: those who are simply don’t want their implants anymore because of a change in lifestyle or circumstances; those who have concerns about specific issues with their implants, such as potential rupture or capsule contracture associated with the implant; and those who are affected by either breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) or breast implant illness.

ALCL is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells, which are the cells of the immune system. The condition has a high incidence in patients who have certain types of breast implants, specifically textured implants. Implants can be textured or smooth and those that are very textured or rough on the surface tend to have a high incidence of ALCL. There are different incidences associated with different types of implants, but it is important to note that there are currently no reported incidents of ALCL associated with smooth implants. When patients are diagnosed with ALCL, they typically notice some swelling, rather than any pain or discomfort. The condition often develops many years of the implant is placed. Although ALCL is a very rare condition, it is important that you see a doctor if you notice any symptoms. The majority of people who develop the condition are successfully treated, particularly when it is diagnosed early.

What is breast implant illness?

There is an increasing number of women with implants who are developing non-specific symptoms such as lethargy, fatigue, headaches, fogginess, aches and pains, and rashes. Often, it is difficult to diagnose these types of cases and doctors are unsure as to why their patients may be experiencing these symptoms. In some cases, when these patients have their breast implants removed, their symptoms improve. Interestingly, if patients have experienced these types of symptoms and are diagnosed with a condition such as a type of autoimmune disease, they may notice some temporary improvement after having their breast implants removed. Often, however, symptoms recur after some time.

What does a breast implant removal procedure involve?

When removing an implant, Dr Yang usually makes an incision in the old scar under the breast. If there is a concern about a rupture or a capsule contracture, or in the case of ACCL, Dr Yang will make an incision under the breast even if there is no existing scar there as this provides good access to the relevant area, allowing the safe and thorough removal of the implant. The procedure is performed under general anaesthetic in the hospital and in the case of capsule contracture, the tissue is sent to a laboratory for further testing. Drains are usually placed as part of the procedure. In some cases, a replacement implant is placed, or a lift procedure is performed to resolve any sagging and loss of volume, depending on patient preference.

What should one consider before having breast implants removed?

If you are thinking about having your breast implants removed, it is very important that you speak to your plastic surgeon about the implications of the surgery. It is also a good idea to have an ultrasound to check for excess fluid around the implant, which could be a sign of ALCL. Ultrasound also allows your doctor to see if your implants look normal and intact or whether there is concern that it could be ruptured. In the case of a ruptured implant, the implant should certainly be removed at some stage. If there is no rupture, but you would like to discuss any other concerns, take the time to speak to your surgeon about what a removal procedure involves, what the appearance of your breasts will look like after surgery, and what the likelihood of your symptoms resolving post-surgery is.

If you would like to arrange a consultation with Dr Samuel Yang, please get in touch.

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