Breast implant removal surgery (also known as explant surgery) is a standard procedure to either remove, or remove and replace, a patient’s breast implants.
Although breast implants remain popular, many women are deciding to have the procedure reversed. This decision can be based on a few major factors. They may have a change in preferences and express a desire to return to a more natural shape. However, the most common reasons are patients wanting to replace their implants due to medical complications such as capsular contracture (hardening of scar tissue or capsule around the implant), leak, or concern for health issues. Whether you wish to remove your breast implants completely or alter the size of your implants, there are a range of factors to consider and potential procedures you can undertake.
What are the main reasons for undergoing breast implant removal surgery?
Breast implants have a significant lifespan, but there is a possibility that breast augmentation patients will require revisional surgery at some stage in the future to address any complications or changes. The decision to remove or replace the initial breast implants will depend on the individual patient’s needs and desires. Multiple factors can influence this decision.
Localised Implant Issues
Despite breast enlargement procedures becoming commonplace, there can often be medical complications as a result of the implants. For example, you may experience a capsular contracture, prolonged pain around the implant area, the implant may have ruptured, or the implant may have migrated and become mispositioned. In these situations, the implant may need to be removed, but it will depend on certain circumstances. If a patient has a capsular contracture but does not experience any negative symptoms, it’s likely the implant can remain in place, while if an implant appears ruptured in a scan, your surgeon will recommend replacing it, but this may not be urgent. This also provides a chance for the patient to review their goals for their breast augmentation.
A diagnosis of breast cancer may also require breast implants to be removed. Breast implants do not increase the risk of breast cancer, nor do they impede diagnosis, however, to treat breast cancer effectively they may need to be removed, i.e. in the case of a mastectomy. Following treatment, new implants can be inserted, for example in the context of a breast reconstruction surgery.
Breast Implant Illness
Increasingly, patients have reported experiencing a range of non-specific symptoms that are attributed to their implants. Although there is no clear-cut link, patients describe symptoms including fatigue, cognitive impairment, anxiety, lethargy, brain ‘fogginess’, skin breakouts, and other issues. For patients with breast implant illness, removing the breast implants typically brings them relief from these negative symptoms, despite any definitive causal link established yet.
Breast Implant Associated-Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma BIA-ALCL
Breast Implant Associated-Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is a rare form of cancer associated with specific types of breast implants. If you have any concerns related to BIA-ALCL you should consult with your plastic surgeon or see the ASPS BIA-ALCL information page here.
Change in Preference
Often, breast removal surgery is motivated by a change in the patient’s general preferences. You may be seeking a return to a more natural-looking figure after a number of years with implants, or you may be seeking an alternative implant size for cosmetic reasons. Removing breast implants is common among older women who no longer wish to replace their implants, as well as women who’ve experienced natural changes to their body from pregnancy or weight changes, affecting the look and feel of the implants. In these cases, you may also undergo additional surgeries to shape the remaining natural breast tissue.
If any of these factors apply to you, then breast implant removal/replacement might be right for you. There are multiple procedural options that can be undertaken.
Breast Implant Removal Surgery Options
Breast implant revision
Revision surgery, commonly referred to as implant replacement, is a straightforward procedure with the patient having their implants removed and replaced with implants that meet their desires. This can be done to correct any issues as a result of the initial surgery, or to replace any defective implants. It is important to consult with a plastic surgeon to determine which procedure is most suited to your particular needs.
Also known as a mastopexy, this procedure involves removing the implant entirely and then adjusting and reshaping the breast tissue to reshape and contour the breast area. Breast implants typically stretch the surrounding tissue and once removed can leave the natural tissue with a pulled or droopy appearance. A breast lift fixes this by tightening and shaping the breasts to leave a firmer, more raised appearance. Other than removing the implant itself, the procedure will not affect the overall size of your breasts.
Using a similar process to liposuction, the breast implants are removed and instead replaced with fat drawn from other areas of the body. Fat is usually removed from the thighs, hips or abdomen areas to augment the breast size. This option can suit patients who no longer want artificial implants but would like to retain additional breast size. The fat transfer can also help to provide a more natural augmented look.
En Bloc breast removal involves removing both the implant together with the surrounding scar tissue that forms due to the presence of the implant. This scar tissue is a natural bodily reaction to the insertion of a foreign object in the body. This scarring hardens forming a “capsule” around the implant. This is often the preferred option for patients who want any trace of their implants removed, however, it can be a quite invasive procedure and is not suitable for all patients.
Recovering from breast implant removal surgery
Every patient is unique and recovery times will vary depending on your unique situation. It is often the case that breast implant removal procedures have shorter recovery periods than the original breast implant surgery. Following the removal surgery, patients often return home on the same day, or, if a capsulectomy is performed, a drain will need to be placed, but this can be done either as a day procedure or the patient can be admitted overnight. Patients spend up to two weeks resting at home before returning to work, while they are usually able to return to their usual routine, including exercise, within a month.
Dr Samuel Yang is a Brisbane-based specialist plastic surgeon. As a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons, a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and member of the AMA, Dr Samuel Yang has extensive experience in breast augmentation and removal procedures.
If you have any further questions about breast implant removal surgery, or want to have a discussion about removing your breast implants, don’t hesitate to contact us today to book a consultation.