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.
What Are My Activity Restrictions After Breast Implant Exchange?
You can expect your post-operative instructions for breast implant exchange to be similar to your previous breast augmentation. You'll be advised to begin walking as soon as you can after surgery, even the same day, but only short distances. For the first five to seven days after surgery, you'll need to follow your prescribed activity restrictions, such as avoiding strenuous activity and lifting objects that weigh more than 10 pounds. You must also refrain from pushing and pulling heavier objects, and may be advised to avoid reaching overhead. It's important to move relatively slowly after your breast implant exchange. This gives you time to notice pain and other sensations that alert you to stop or reposition yourself.
Your surgeon will clear you for increased physical activity as your healing progresses. You may start increasing your intensity or duration of activity two to three weeks after surgery and be fully back to your normal level of activity after six to eight weeks.
I Feel a Burning Sensation after My Breast Implant Exchange. Is This Normal?
To replace your breast implants, or even remove them, your surgeon may disrupt some of the nerve sensations in the superficial tissue around the plane in which your breast implants are positioned, under the skin or under the muscle. We expect your sensory nerves to regenerate over time. As they do, you may experience a variety of sensations that feel abnormal. Burning is one, tingling, numbness, and shooting pains are others. Your nipples may become hypersensitive or may feel somewhat desensitized for some time. These are all normal sensations that can be attributed to nerve regeneration.
As you heal from your breast implant exchange, you may also notice that one breast feels different than the other in terms of sensation. This is also normal. We often see more swelling in one breast than the other, more or less sensation, and even differing breast shape transformation from one side to the other. Within a few weeks, the two sides should begin to "catch up" with one another and settle into harmony in appearance and sensation.
What Happens if I Want to Exchange Large Breast Implants for a Smaller Size?
Many women decide that their breast implant exchange will involve shifting to a smaller size. Some patients want to have their breast implants removed. These are possible choices, and procedures that are undertaken with the utmost care. You can achieve remarkably satisfying results from breast implant exchange! The critical factor is your choice of surgeon. When you visit us for breast implant exchange, you can trust that your surgeon has extensive training in a variety of breast surgeries. During your consultation, your surgeon will take their time listening to you, examining your appearance, and answering your questions. If you want smaller breast implants, your surgeon will likely plan to reduce your existing breast implant pocket to perfectly fit your new breast size. Depending on the condition of your skin, she may also perform a lift to ensure that your breasts project forward and do not droop.
Are There Challenges to Breast Implant Revision?
Breast implant revision should not be approached just like breast augmentation. The two procedures are similar but not the same. Your breast implant exchange requires additional considerations for skin firmness, the breast implant capsule, scar tissue, and other factors. Additionally, your surgeon must acknowledge that you may have concerns that you didn't have as you approached your first breast augmentation. You may not only be concerned but disillusioned depending on your reason for seeking revision surgery. Understanding this, our doctors prioritize creating effective surgeon-patient communication. Your confidence in your surgeon is important. We know that. And we gain that by communicating clearly, answering questions, and spending time listening to your concerns.
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.