You were likely excited when you first got your breast implants, and enjoyed the increased size and fullness you desired before you underwent surgery. However, breast implants aren’t designed to last a lifetime. After many years of use, you might think that now is the right time for an upgrade or a refresh. Some patients might also develop reservations about the look of their old implants and desire a revision, while others may have concerns about breast implant related illnesses (BII). No matter your reasons, breast implant removal surgery, also known as explant surgery, would be able to help you achieve your goals.
Dr. Daniel Barrett begins every explant surgery with a patient’s end goal in mind. Depending on the results you’re after, he will ensure that you’re aware of all your options after your implants have been removed so you can still enjoy an aesthetically pleasing outcome.
What is Breast Implant Removal?
Breast implant removal, also known as explant surgery, is a surgical procedure that extracts the implants from the breast pocket. In some cases, this can be a very straightforward procedure, where the surgeon performing the implant removal can use the same incision locations as the original implant surgery, eliminating the need for additional scarring after your procedure. However, when there are additional complications such as capsular contracture or implant ruptures, it can become extremely complex.
Depending on the specifications of the surgery, there can be multiple outcomes, which is why it is extremely important to choose a board-certified plastic surgeon with the technical know-how and experience to perform your explantation surgery. When breast implant removal is performed by an experienced breast surgeon like Dr. Barrett, the results are usually highly satisfying. Depending on your goals for the procedure, this surgery can be performed alone or in conjunction with another treatment, such as implant replacement, fat transfer or a breast lift.
Reasons for Breast Implant Removal
Women opt to have their implants removed for a variety of reasons:
While implants are considered medical devices that don’t have an expiry date, most implants have a lifespan of about 10 to 20 years inside the body. Even if your implants have never caused any issues for you, it is still important around the 10 year mark to start considering explantation to remove and perhaps replace your old implants, in order to avoid any complications.
Some women opt for implant removal for cosmetic reasons. As time goes on, patients may feel that their old implants no longer suit their body. Age, pregnancy and breastfeeding may have taken its toll on the breast tissue surrounding your implants, and you may no longer be satisfied with the size or shape of their breasts and want to make a change. If your implants are making you feel self-conscious about your breasts, it might be time for a change. Dr. Barrett will consider your goals to help you determine whether this would involve the use of brand new implants, a breast lift, breast fat transfer or a combination of these procedures.
PAIN OR DISCOMFORT
If your implants are causing you any pain or discomfort, implant removal can help relieve this. Soreness or even greater pain around the implant site can be due to scar tissue build-up, or even implants that are too large for the body. Others may find the additional weight on the chest leads to neck and shoulder strain. If your implants are making you feel uncomfortable, implant removal may be a way to rectify your issues. Dr. Barrett will assess each patient’s anatomy and overall goals to determine whether or not downsizing might be the best option for you, and whether incorporating fat transfer to the breasts can create a more natural result.
Capsular contracture, or the formation of scar tissue around any type of implant, is an entirely natural part of post-surgical recovery. The body’s automatic reaction to a foreign body is to isolate it through the generation of a barrier of scar tissue. In most cases, this is a positive thing as it helps to keep breast implants in place, while the breasts still appear entirely natural and remain soft to the touch. However, when the formation of scar tissue around the breasts becomes symptomatic, becoming unusually hard, distorting the look of the breasts, or even contracting around the breasts and causing pain, it becomes important to address it. The only way to ease the symptoms of capsular contracture is to remove the implants and the scar tissue surrounding them.
Implant ruptures are another reason why women might consider surgery to remove their implants. When a rupture occurs in a saline implant, the effects are noticeable almost immediately as the breasts will take on a ‘deflated’ appearance. Although the rupture of a silicone implant may not be immediately visible, it is imperative that after a ‘silent’ rupture occurs, the implant should be removed relatively quickly to prevent the silicone from spreading to other areas of the body. While most patients who experience a silicone implant rupture do not experience any symptoms, when symptoms are present they may include uncomfortable sensations such as burning, tingling or numbness, the formation of lumps or hard knots, and even changes to the appearance of the breasts. Patients with silicone breast implants should undergo yearly imaging tests like an ultrasound or MRI to ensure they are not experiencing any implant ruptures.
IMPLANT RIPPLING AND PALPABILITY
Patients with insufficient breast tissue, or who have lost significant amounts of weight, may notice wrinkles or ripples from their implant appear on their skin. Palatability occurs when these wrinkles can be felt when you touch your breast. If modest weight gain is not enough to reduce the look and feel of implant rippling, Dr. Barrett can work with patients to reposition an implant, change the type of implant used, or address any loose or stretched out skin.
AUTOIMMUNE SYMPTOMS (BREAST IMPLANT ILLNESS)
Some women may experience negative reactions to the silicone in their implants, causing symptoms like fatigue, hair loss and joint pain. While Breast Implant Illness remains a rare side effect of breast implants, it is more commonly seen in women who already had an autoimmune disease like lupus or scleroderma when they underwent breast implant surgery or have a family history of an autoimmune disorder. Some Breast Implant Illness symptoms include chronic fatigue, chronic pain, endocrine dysfunction, digestive issues and brain fog. If you are experiencing any concerning symptoms, implant removal could be an option for you. Dr. Barrett may also suggest removing the entire breast capsule in one intact piece in an en bloc capsulectomy where possible.
Breast Implant Illness Patient Story
“I absolutely love my breasts now! I just feel like so much inflammation is gone. I haven’t had a major flare up since removal, and even issues that I didn’t think were related have disappeared since. My IBS is almost completely gone, my skin sensitivities are slowly getting better and better, and as crazy as it sounds even my insomnia has gone away. I feel like I got my life back, and it’s only been 6 months. Best decisions I have ever made.”
BREAST IMPLANT ASSOCIATED ANAPLASTIC LARGE CELL LYMPHOMA (BIA-ALCL)
While ALCL has been associated with certain types of textured breast implants, it is important to note that the total number of cases of this exceptionally rare breast disease are in their hundred worldwide, out of millions of implants used. Still, patients who are concerned about their risks should schedule a consultation with Dr. Barrett if they desire to remove their implants. Patients who experience this rare cancer can rest assured that it can typically be completely cured by removing both their implants and the surrounding scar pocket. Dr. Barrett performs En Bloc or Total Capsulectomy surgery for these patients to ensure that both the implant and any surrounding tissue that was in contact with the implant is removed as well.
There are other concerns women might have regarding their implants that would lead them to consider surgical removal. Some women are worried that the implants could interfere with their mammogram readings or make the exam more uncomfortable. Infections can also occur at any time after implants are placed, which require treatment.
Creating Beautiful Breasts After Implant Removal
When you choose an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon for your breast implant removal, you can rest assured you will also enjoy a positive cosmetic result. Dr. Barrett will assess your situation and listen to your goals to ensure your outcome meets your needs and expectations. He may advise you to have a breast lift in conjunction with implant removal to maintain a perky, youthful shape and position to the breasts. Another option is to use fat transfer to add a subtle amount of natural fullness to the breasts after the implants are removed. If you want to replace your implants, Dr. Barrett has the tools and expertise to help you select new implants that will fit your ideal body shape and mesh beautifully with the rest of your body proportions.
BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTOS
Breast Implant Removal Overview
When considering breast explant surgery, having a clear incision plan is a highly important consideration. Dr. Barrett will thoroughly assess previous incision patterns, and will use the same incisions to minimize scarring where possible. A straightforward breast implant removal or replacement procedure is performed similarly to an augmentation procedure. Dr. Barrett may perform your surgery using general anesthesia or local with IV sedation. Either way, you will be comfortably asleep for the procedure.
In some cases, once the volume from the breast implants is removed, Dr. Barrett may perform a breast lift to remove excess skin. This can help patients achieve a more youthful and perky result if their goal is to downsize while maintaining an aesthetically beautiful position to their breasts. While additional incisions will be required for a breast lift, such as a doughnut mastopexy or lollipop lift, Dr. Barrett’s careful incision and suturing techniques will help reduce the appearance of scarring.
If a fat transfer is done, it may be performed after you have healed from your explant surgery. The fat transfer will provide additional fullness and volume, using unwanted fat from another part of the body like the abdomen or hips, removed using liposuction and purified before being added to the breasts.
For patients reporting symptoms of Breast Implant Illness, BIA-ALCL or other health concerns, Dr. Barrett will likely suggest an en bloc capsulectomy or total capsulectomy with the explant. This removed both the implant and the surrounding tissues that had been in contact with the implant. In this method, the capsule is meticulously dissected and removed entirely in one piece, with the implant still inside. This results in no additional contamination of the body.
After Breast Implant Removal
The recovery process for implant removal is also similar to the process after augmentation surgery. You should expect to have some soreness, swelling and bruising for the first couple of weeks. Dr. Barrett will provide specific instructions on how to best care for yourself during the recovery period to ensure a safe and successful healing process. Most patients can return to light activities within one week and more strenuous exercise after about six weeks.
Dr. Barrett focuses on minimizing scar appearance during the postoperative period. He meets with all his patients weekly to monitor their recovery process and assess how the incisions are healing. Once the stitches are removed, he will tape the incisions closed for a set period. At this point, he will prescribe a patented silicone scar get to apply twice daily for three months to continue the healing process and ensure the best possible aesthetic results.
Healthy, Beautiful Breasts
The results of breast implant removal can be seen soon after the surgery and are very long-lasting. For women concerned about side effects or complications from the implants, those worries are put to rest for good. Women also enjoy an excellent aesthetic result as Dr. Barrett will work with you throughout the process to ensure your outcome meets your expectations beautifully. To learn more about breast implant removal, contact Barrett Plastic Surgery today at 310-598-2648.