Is Now the Time to Exchange Your Implants?
Breast augmentation regularly ranks as one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries in the world. Although it is a procedure known for having a very high satisfaction rate, some women may decide to exchange their breast implants due to the effects of weight fluctuations, breastfeeding, hormone changes, aging and/or simply a desire to go bigger or smaller. Furthermore, breast implants are manmade devices that do not last forever and may rupture, shift, or become contracted over time. Because of this, essentially every woman will need to have her breast implants replaced at least once over the course of her lifetime. Whether you’d like to change your look or it’s simply time to replace your implants, the team at Austin Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery can help you address this with a breast implant exchange procedure.
Breast implant exchange surgery includes three key steps. First, your surgeon removes the existing breast implant and scar capsule from the breast pocket, known as an en bloc capsulectomy. If necessary, corrective work is performed to repair the pectoralis muscle (if the implant was initially placed under the muscle), to revise the pocket, and/or remove ruptured implant material. Lastly, your surgeon will place a new implant to restore a beautiful, natural breast appearance.
When to Consider Breast Implant Exchange
Breast implant exchange is an option if you would like to change or improve on the cosmetic results of a prior breast augmentation. Some common aesthetic reasons patients request implant exchange include:
- To change to a smaller or larger implant size
- To switch from saline to silicone implants (or vice versa)
- To improve shape, feel or symmetry
- To replace large implants that are interfering with physical activity
- To accommodate changing aesthetic tastes or trends
- To reverse unwanted changes due to aging, pregnancy or weight fluctuations
- To address sagging (commonly performed with a breast lift)
- To switch to a new product that has become available
Even if you are happy with the initial results of your breast augmentation, complications may arise that necessitate exchanging your implants. Potential breast implant complications include:
- Swelling and/or redness in the breast
- Breast pain or discomfort
- Capsular contracture (formation of tight scar tissue)
- Distorted muscular animations (common with implants placed under the muscle)
- Changes in nipple or breast sensation
- Implant malposition
- Implant rupture or leak
Your Breast Implant Exchange Consultation
The implant exchange process begins with a consultation to discuss your goals. During this initial meeting, your plastic surgeon will review your medical history, inquire about any symptoms you are experiencing and discuss your personal goals. The consultation also involves a physical examination in which your surgeon will take measurements and assess your current implants and breast tissue. You will have the opportunity to raise concerns and questions so you feel confident in making informed decisions about your care.
Our plastic surgeons specialize in cosmetic and reconstructive breast surgery. They appreciate the tremendous impact the artistry of plastic surgery can have on a patient’s life. With decades of experience, our surgeons understand the nuances of a revision procedure and know how to deliver the beautiful, natural-looking results you expect.
Breast Implant Exchange Procedure Options
Your plastic surgeon will collaborate with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your unique needs and goals. Below are some of the changes that can be made in a breast implant exchange procedure:
Exchanging the Type of Breast Implant
There are two main types of breast implants used for breast augmentation. Saline implants feature a silicone outer shell filled with a sterile saltwater solution. Silicone implants feature a silicone outer shell filled with a cohesive silicone gel. Both breast implants have benefits, but our surgeons find that the majority of patients prefer silicone implants because they have a more natural look and feel. Due to their cohesiveness, they also maintain their shape even when they have a rupture or tear, whereas a saline implant will deflate when it ruptures, causing noticeable asymmetry until you are able to undergo surgery.
Increasing or Decreasing Implant Volume and/or Profile
One of the most common motives for pursuing breast implant exchange is to change the volume and/or the projection of the implant, also known as the implant profile. Many women find that their needs or tastes have evolved over time, and a different implant volume or level of projection is now desirable. A woman who has gained weight, for example, may find that implants with more volume or projection are more complementary to her body contours, while a woman who has achieved a more athletic build may find that smaller implants are better suited to her lifestyle.
Adjusting Implant Position
Breast implants sometimes settle too low or too widely on the chest, or come together in the middle of the chest (known as symmastia). Implants can also shift or become displaced over time. In this case, modifying the implant pocket can help move the implant to a more natural-looking location and ensure it stays in the correct position. Changing the implant to a different size, shape, projection or firmness can also affect how it sits on the chest and how natural it looks and feels.
Reducing Sagging with a Breast Lift
Breast implants are long-lasting devices, but they are not immune to the effects of time. Aging, pregnancy, breastfeeding, hormonal changes and weight gain or loss cause the skin and tissues of the breasts to stretch and sag. These changes, in turn, can cause the implants to move out of their ideal position. The best solution in this scenario is often to combine a breast implant exchange with a breast lift.
Correcting Capsular Contracture
When a breast implant is in place, a capsule of scar tissue forms around it. This is a normal reaction of the body, and in most cases, the capsule remains soft enough that it is not noticeable. In some women, however, the capsule becomes unusually hard and tightens around the implant, distorting the breast's shape and sometimes causing chronic pain. Correcting this condition, known as capsular contracture, often involves removing the existing implant and the surrounding scar capsule. The implant may then be replaced with a new implant.
Your Breast Implant Exchange Surgery Experience
Breast implant exchange surgery is performed under general anesthesia. To begin the procedure, your surgeon will make an incision in the location that was agreed upon during your consultation. An inframmary incision, located in the crease under the breast, is commonly used because it offers the greatest control over the implant pocket and leaves a thin scar that is easily hidden in the fold of the breast. Another option is to use the incision lines from the original breast augmentation when exchanging implants to avoid creating new scars.
A simple implant exchange surgery is similar to the primary breast augmentation procedure. The procedure is more complex if a hardened scar tissue capsule must also be removed (capsulectomy), or if stretched skin and tissue must be addressed with a breast lift. Our surgeons draw on their ample expertise and experience to identify the best technique for your goals and lifestyle.
Breast Implant Exchange Recovery and Results
Breast implant exchange is an outpatient procedure. You will be able to return home after spending some time recovering on site. Be sure to arrange for a trusted caregiver to drive you home and assist you for the first few days after surgery. Some bruising, swelling and discomfort are to be expected in the initial stages of healing. You will be advised to wear a front-closing post-surgical bra for about two weeks to minimize inflammation and promote faster recovery. Most patients comfortably return to work within a few days, as long as your job does not involve strenuous physical activity. You will receive specific recovery instructions in the post-op period based on how you are healing.
Once the swelling and bruising abate, you will start to see your final results emerge. As with the primary breast augmentation, your implants may initially seem too high and too firm until the tissues relax and the implants settle into their final position. Scars will continue to improve for up to a year and may be minimal to begin with if your surgeon is able to use the incision lines from your previous augmentation procedure. Be patient as your body adapts to its shapely new form.
Breast Implant Exchange in Austin, TX
Whatever your reasons for pursuing breast implant exchange may be, our surgeons at Austin Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery can help you achieve your goals. Our all-female practice ensures breast surgery patients feel at ease discussing their procedure and confident that their surgical team understands their concerns. Additionally, every member of our staff are here to guide you through each step of your journey. We invite you to learn about your breast implant options and receive individualized treatment recommendations by scheduling a consultation. Please call (512) 815-0123 to schedule your consultation, or click here to send us an appointment request form. Our practice looks forward to serving you!
Austin Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery
- Known for natural-looking aesthetic results in breast reconstruction and cosmetic surgery.
- Elected by peers for inclusion in Texas Monthly's Texas Super Doctors®: Rising Stars listing.
- Reconstructed over 6,000 patients, including more than 2,500 DIEP flap reconstructions.
- 4.9-star average rating over hundreds of reviews for reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.