Breast explant surgery 101

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Celebrities and social media influencers are among the thousands of women who are making the choice to explant, or remove, their breast implants. This is a personal decision and each patient will have unique considerations. Regardless of the motivation, plastic surgeons can guide women through the process and help them achieve the appearance that best supports their health and well-being.

How long do breast implants last?

It’s a common myth that breast implants need to be removed every 10 years. Intact implants without problems don’t need to be removed. Implants only need to be removed or addressed if a problem occurs related to the implant, such as position changes, rupture or abnormal scarring called capsular contracture. The decision to have implants removed is individual and should be made in consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon. At the very least, we recommend regular yearly follow up with your plastic surgeon after breast implant surgery.

How do breast implants change over time?

Following breast implant surgery, scar tissue may develop around the implant, the supporting tissue may thin and breasts may sag. Also, implants could rupture, change position or cause persistent pain. Individual preferences about appearance may change and breast implant removal may support a new personal outlook.

What happens during breast explant surgery?

Breast implant removal surgery, like breast implant surgery, is usually an outpatient procedure performed while you are sedated. An incision is made along the implant scar line and the implant and any scar tissue is removed. After implant removal, breasts may be smaller, droopier and could have small indentations. A breast lift or even fat transferred from liposuction is commonly used to correct these issues.

Is breast explant surgery risky?

The risks associated with explant surgery are similar to any surgery. You may experience bleeding, infection, numbness, changes in sensation, fluid buildup, scarring and complications related to anesthesia. It’s important to discuss these with your surgeon as you weigh your options.

How long is recovery after surgery?

Immediately after surgery, your breasts will be covered with bandages and you will typically wear a supportive bra with compression to minimize swelling. Your plastic surgeon will provide instructions on how to care for your wounds, medications to take, concerns to watch out for and the schedule of follow-up appointments. Healing will take several weeks to months.

Steven Schulz is a plastic surgeon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and an assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.