Breast implants are a popular cosmetic treatment, but do they last forever? Leading plastic surgeon Mr Venkat Ramakrishnan is here to explain and gives his recommendations for which implants to choose.
Do breast implants last forever?
Breast implants themselves are made of silicone and silicone lasts forever, but whether the implant will last in the body forever is another question. If we remove a good quality implant which has been there for 20 years because of encapsulation (hardening of the tissue around the implant), the implant looks much the same as when it was put in.
Usually, we remove the implant because of the encapsulation, which is the scar tissue around implant; the body's reaction to the implant.
In rare cases, the implant can rupture, perhaps because there are faults in the implant, which can weaken over time. Again, if it is a good quality implant, filled with medical-grade silicone, then there is no harm. The silicone doesn't go anywhere, because it's in a gel form. It all stays in one place and so the implants and the silicone contents will last there forever without causing any problems. However, we recommend that ruptured implants are removed; once taken out it's quite easy to clean the breast and put a new implant in.
So, the answer to the question is that the implants themselves would last. There is no expiry date. They don't decay, but the body's response to the implant is what makes us change the implant in 10 years or 15 years’ time.
What implants do you recommend?
There are two parts to this answer. One is the type of implant and other is which manufacturer.
With regards to the type of implant, the commonest implant I use and I believe gives the most natural result is a round implant. We can use a shaped or a round implant in any patient, depending on their preference. A round implant is softer and when you stand it up, it becomes like a shaped implant, because the gel sinks to the bottom of the implant and it becomes peaky at the top anyway. A shaped implant, on the other hand, is shaped all the time. When a patient lies down, the round implant moves and wobbles. The wobble factor is like a normal breast. The preference in most of my patients would be to have round implant because it gives better consistency.
With regards to whether we use a textured implant – that's a rough implant or a smooth implant – this depends on how the patient feels about the risk of anaplastic large cell lymphoma – you have probably read about this in the newspapers recently. This is a rare cancer which can occur when the patient has a rough-surfaced implant. It is extremely rare (one in 80,000 chance), so this is a conversation we have with the patient before selecting.
With regards to the manufacturer, I tend to use MENTOR implants. MENTOR belongs to Johnson & Johnson (one of the big manufacturers of medical devices) and they have a very high-quality manufacturing process. That's the reason why I chose them.
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