Procedures/ Implant Exchange

Implant Exchange

Procedures 6 min read


Implant Exchange

Over the last couple of decades, there has been a sharp rise in the number of patients undergoing breast augmentation surgery with breast implants. Advances in surgical techniques and modern breast implants can help women achieve amazing, natural-looking results to look and feel their confident best. A consequence of the rising popularity of breast augmentation is a concurrent rise in breast implant revision surgery or breast implant exchange.

A board certified plastic surgeon can perform implant exchange in women for a variety of reasons. For instance, a woman might choose to have breast implant exchange to improve the results of a prior breast augmentation procedure. Or she may wish to increase or decrease the size of her breasts. Implant exchange might be necessary because breast implants have a lifespan (they are not intended to last forever). Like all medical devices, they wear out over time and may need to be replaced with a revision procedure.

If you have breast implants in place, please keep reading to learn more about breast implant exchange. Find out how this procedure can give you breast augmentation results that are more aesthetically pleasing. Also learn about improved positioning of the implants and achieving larger or smaller breasts after weight changes or pregnancy.

What is an implant exchange?

A breast implant exchange is a type of revision breast augmentation surgery. It usually involves replacing existing breast implants with a new set of breast implants. Patients desire an implant exchange for a variety of reasons, including dissatisfaction with the results of a prior breast augmentation, a desire for smaller or larger breasts, or a desire for a different shape of the breasts.

Breast implant exchange might also be done due to complications such as implant rupture (this can range from a partial leak to complete implant deflation), capsular contracture (a complication where scar tissue forms around the implant), or a shift in the implant position.

Last but not least, breast implant exchange may be desired after a woman undergoes changes in her breast tissue due to weight loss, weight gain, pregnancy, etc. Less commonly, revision breast surgery involves removal of the implants altogether.

Why have implant exchange?

You might choose to have revision breast surgery to exchange older generation implants, for example, silicone implants with saline breast implants. Other reasons can include improving the feel of the breast implants that might have hardened due to capsular contracture. Some women want to restore fullness in the upper breasts and correct the position of implants that have migrated downwards. Other women might wish to reduce implant rippling or double bubble (this is an effect when the lower edge of the implant becomes visible through the skin, appearing like a second crease). Women might want to correct asymmetry in the breasts.

Ultimately, the goal of breast implant exchange is usually to create a more natural look and feel. A board certified plastic surgeon can help you decide whether revision breast surgery can accomplish your aesthetic goals.

Who is a good candidate for breast implant exchange?

An appropriate candidate for revision breast surgery with implant exchange is one who has given serious consideration to the risks and benefits of the procedure. Patients should have reasonable expectations and aesthetic goals from the procedure. They should wish to improve (but not perfect) some aspects of their breasts.

A suitable candidate for breast implant exchange or implant removal is also one who is in good overall physical and mental health. Doctors recommend pursuing revision breast surgery for personal reasons, never to please another person.

You are a good candidate for breast implant exchange if you desire:

  • Change in the size of your breasts (smaller or larger)
  • More natural appearing implants
  • Perkier breast implants with increased volume in the upper pole (a breast lift may be recommended)
  • Change from saline to silicone breast implants or vice versa
  • Correction of asymmetries in breast size or positioning
  • Treatment for a complication such as implant rupture or leakage
  • Treatment of excessive scar tissue around the breast implant (capsular contraction)

These are general guidelines and reasons. Your plastic surgeon is the best person to help you decide if revision breast surgery is appropriate for you.

Can I replace my breast implants       with smaller ones?

Yes, you can exchange your breast implants with smaller ones. Some women find that large breasts make physical activity challenging due to interference by the implants with arm movement. The extra weight in the breasts can sometimes cause neck or back pain. In such instances, exchanging the implants to achieve a smaller breast size is a reasonable approach.

It is sometimes difficult to imagine what your new breasts will look like after breast augmentation. If you feel like you want smaller or larger breasts, you can undergo breast implant exchange for a size that is more in line with your desires and more appropriate to your body frame. You can also undergo implant exchange if you have had a change in your breast appearance over time due to pregnancy, aging, or weight fluctuations. Some women choose to have implant removal followed by a breast lift.

For about 14 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States had banned silicone implants. With advances in breast implant technology and safer implants available, this ban has been lifted. Consequently, many women are choosing breast implant exchange from saline breast implants to silicone as the latter look and feel more natural than saline implants.

Lastly, you can undergo implant exchange due to changing trends and styles. For example, very large breasts were popular a couple of decades ago but now many women prefer a more moderate breast augmentation. A revision breast surgery can ensure your appearance reflects current trends.

Can I have breast implant exchange after a rupture?

Breast implants are made of very durable materials. However, they can occasionally rupture. The rupture rate increases by around 1% every year. Even after breast implants have been in place for a decade, the risk remains relatively low.

If you have saline implants, a rupture will result in a deflated appearance to the breast but it will not pose any risk to your health. The saline solution is not harmful. It will escape from the implant shell and be absorbed by the body. You will want to replace the ruptured implant to restore breast volume and symmetry.

In the case of silicone implants, the material is cohesive and remains in the shell after a rupture. After extensive testing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that this is not a danger to your health. Because the material remains in the implant shell, you may not even realize that a silicone breast implant has ruptured. To ensure that a silicone implant remains intact, your doctor will recommend periodic imaging with MRIs. Should a rupture be detected, you can undergo breast implant exchange at your convenience.

How often do you have to exchange implants?

As mentioned above, breast implants have a lifespan. They are not designed to last forever. At some point, you will need to undergo implant exchange even if there are no complications. Fortunately, you don't need to undergo revision breast surgery very frequently. If you are happy with your breast augmentation results and there are no complications like capsular contracture or rupture, there is no reason to replace the breast implants. In most women, the implants last 10-15 years or more. Just keep in mind that at some point in the future you will likely require a breast implant exchange.

Breast Implant Exchange Consultation

Before undergoing implant exchange, you will be seen in the office in consultation. At this appointment, your plastic surgeon will discuss the reasons why you are seeking revision breast surgery. They will talk about possible solutions if you are dissatisfied with your breast shape, size, or position. They will also ask you about any symptoms to assess if there could be complications. Based on this discussion and a physical exam, the plastic surgeon will formulate a customized revision surgery treatment plan to help accomplish your aesthetic goals. At this time, you will be given the chance to ask any question that's on your mind.

Breast Implant Exchange Procedure

The surgical technique used during the breast augmentation revision will depend on various factors, including whether you want an implant exchange for a different implant size, implant repositioning for a perkier profile, or breast implant removal. The duration of the procedure and the recovery period can also vary.

In general, breast implant exchange is performed on an outpatient basis under general anesthesia or local anesthesia with sedation. The procedure typically takes around three hours. In many ways, the revision breast surgery is similar to the initial breast augmentation. The surgeon will open the original incisions to remove and replace the implants or reduce scarring.

If you are having implant exchange of silicone gel implants for saline implants, for example, the implants may be placed in a different location. In some cases, the implants are placed in a breast pocket under the breast tissue but above the chest muscle, while in others they are placed below the chest muscle.

Recovery Following Breast Implant Exchange

Your recovery after breast implant surgery will be very similar to your initial breast augmentation procedure. Some patients do find the recovery to be a little more intense because revision procedures are more complex than the original breast augmentation procedures.

It is not uncommon to have moderate to severe pain and discomfort for 4-5 days after the revision surgery. There can also be bruising, swelling, numbness, and tenderness. These symptoms can be relieved with ice packs and pain medication. Changes in nipple sensation can occur on a temporary or permanent basis.

You should plan to take at least one week off work after your breast implant exchange surgery. During the recovery period, get as much rest as possible. You will need to avoid heavy lifting, strenuous activity, or direct stimulation of the breasts while they heal from the surgery. Your plastic surgeon will advise you on gradually returning to normal activities.

What are the risks and complications of implant exchange?

Like with all surgeries, there are risks associated with a breast implant exchange procedure. Your surgeon will take all necessary precautions to minimize the risks of breast implant exchange surgery. However, complications can may occur including but not limited to reactions to anesthesia, bleeding, infection, clot formation, delayed healing, unsatisfactory breast appearance, breast asymmetry after the surgery, temporary or permanent changes in nipple sensation, and possible problems with breastfeeding in the future. There can also be complications such as implant rippling, rupture, and capsular contracture over time.

How much does implant exchange cost?

The total cost of your breast implant exchange surgery will depend on various factors, including where you live, the expertise of your surgeon, and hospital fees. On average, a surgeon charges $5,000 to $8,000 for breast implant removal or exchange. If you are having breast implant exchange, the cost of a new set of saline or silicone breast implants can be anywhere from $600 to $2,500. There may be additional costs on account of anesthesia, hospital fees, post surgical garments, etc. When you get a quote from your surgeon, check if the price includes pre-surgical medical tests, medication costs, and follow-up visits.

Schedule a consultation for breast implant exchange surgery

Whether you have silicone gel or saline implants, revision breast surgery can be more complicated than your initial breast augmentation. That's why it is essential to choose a board certified plastic surgeon or highly qualified surgeon to perform your breast lift procedure, breast augmentation revision procedure, implant exchange, or breast implant removal.

The MeTime app makes it easy to find an experienced surgeon for a breast implant exchange in your area. Prospective patients can chat with experts, share photos, do a video consultation, and get quotes. Download the MeTime app today and take the first step towards a successful breast enhancement surgery or an implant exchange procedure.

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