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Video: How Long Do Breast Implants Last?

How Long Do Breast Implants Last?

Women who are considering breast augmentation surgery often have questions about the numerous styles of implants available to them. To help make the research process a bit less confusing, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding implants.

What Do Breast Implants Look Like?

How the breast implants look post-surgery depends on the shape and material you choose.

Prior to insertion, the actual implants can have a few different shapes and textures. Each provides a slightly different end result.

Most of the time, you will hear the implant shapes referred to as round or teardrop. Sometimes, the terms “contoured” or “anatomical” are used in place of teardrop, but the general shape is the same.

Round implants resemble a somewhat flattened gumdrop. They’re half-spheres that can vary in size and thickness, and the flat bottom of the shell is what is placed against the tissue of the body.

Teardrop or contoured implants are not perfectly teardrop-shaped. Instead of a sharp point that quickly rounds out at the bottom like a traditional teardrop shape, they have a gently sloping curve that is slightly narrower at the top and fuller at the bottom. This gives the breast some fullness at the top but provides a more natural, bottom-heavy curve than a purely round implant. These also come in a full range of sizes, but they generally don’t offer the more extreme levels of cleavage that round implants can give.

What Are Breast Implants Made Of?

All breast implants are made from one of two different types of material. You can choose a semi-rigid shell filled with a sterile saltwater solution called saline, or you can go with a shell that’s filled with a more firm, gel-like substance called silicone.

The silicone used in breast implants is medical grade and approved by the FDA. The most recent iterations of silicone implants, often called “gummy bear implants,” are made with a highly viscous gel that is specifically designed to stick to itself and retain its shape, even if the implant ruptures or is compromised. This is a serious improvement over saline implants because any type of leakage or incident means that the affected breast will deflate and look visibly different until it can be corrected.

To see just how resilient and sticky these new silicone implants are, we encourage you to watch Dr. Shahram Salemy dissect a silicone breast implant to demonstrate how durable they truly are.

What is the Difference Between Saline and Silicone Breast Implants?

There are several differences between the two types of implants. Which material is best for you can depend on these differences.

1. Appearance 

Silicone and saline implants look slightly different. Because the saline shells are filled with a solution that is the consistency of water, they’re more prone to rippling or wrinkling over time. For some women, this isn’t an issue, but it can be obvious in areas where the skin is thinner. Silicone implants tend to give breasts a firmer look than saline as well.

2. Volume and Projection 

Volume refers to how full the plastic surgeon can make the implant during surgery. Silicone implants are not adjustable because of the nature of the gel inside, but saline ones are. This means that saline implants give you and your surgeon more control over the final results.

Projection refers to how your breasts will look in profile after surgery. You can think of it as how far forward and perky your breasts will appear when you’re standing. Saline implants generally offer lower degrees of projection, but silicone gives you a full range of options from low-profile to ultra-high-profile.

This generally means that saline implants are great for a more subtle, low-key appearance and silicone implants can accommodate both subtle or very obvious cleavage.

3. Post-operative Feel 

While neither type of implant will feel 100 percent natural, many women say that silicone tends to mimic the look and feel of natural breast tissue better than saline. Saline implants have more “give” and fluidity, so this makes sense.

How Long Do Breast Implants Last?

One of the most common questions that women have regarding breast augmentation is about how long their implants will last. There are dozens of websites that offer outdated or unreliably sourced information, and this often leads to confusion.

The short answer is that the lifespan of your breast augmentation will depend on the surgeon you choose, your lifestyle, and your unique body makeup. The type of implant you receive can also play a role in the longevity of your breast augmentation. Ultimately, your surgeon will be able to assess your situation and give you a more exact timeline of how long your implants should last.

How Long Do Silicone Breast Implants Last?

Generally speaking, silicone implants tend to be more resilient than their saline counterparts. It’s common to see doctors and health sites say that you must replace your silicone implants every 10 years, but this is not completely accurate advice.

The 10-year lifespan is based on a report that the FDA completed in 2011. They found that roughly 20 percent of women with implants needed some type of maintenance or replacement surgery after a decade of wear. However, this also means that 80 percent of women had normally functioning implants after 10 years and did not need additional surgery.

For many women, it’s entirely possible that a single set of implants can last a lifetime. However, because ruptures and damage are difficult to detect in silicone implants, it’s absolutely vital for women to stay up-to-date on their checkups and keep a close relationship with a board-certified plastic surgeon.

How Long Do Saline Breast Implants Last?

Like silicone implants, it’s possible for saline implants to last for decades. However, because these can be more prone to issues such as shifting and rippling, many experts say that women should expect to need some form of maintenance surgery every 10-15 years.

Saline implants also have a somewhat higher risk of rupturing, so it’s more likely that women with this type of implant will need replacements over the long term.

How Do I Know Which Type of Breast Implant is Right For Me?

It’s perfectly normal to begin researching breast augmentation only to become overwhelmed with the wealth of information available to you. No matter how many videos you watch and galleries you view, it can be extremely difficult to decide on your own exactly which style and material is best for your needs.

Ultimately, the best way to choose the right implants for your body is to meet with a board-certified plastic surgeon who you feel you can trust. He or she will be able to assess your body medically and aesthetically in order to offer you an expert opinion regarding the range of shapes, sizes, and materials that will work best for you.

The right surgeon will listen to your goals and offer realistic options to help you get as close to your ideal as possible.

How Well Can a Breast Implant Hold Its Shape Video Transcript:

Hi, it’s Dr. Salemy, and we’re going to do a little experiment today. I have in front of me an Allergan style 45-360 CC silicone gel implant. And what I’m going to do today is cut through them and so we can get a sense of how cohesive these implants actually are.

Okay, so here’s the Allergen style 45 implant. So you can see even with a pretty big cut through it, it just stays right where it is, doesn’t leak.

So now what I’ve done is I’ve made a cut right through the center of the entire implant. You can see it like that. I just want to demonstrate something. I’m going to squeeze this, see it coming out, and then watch. Holds the shape pretty darn well, I mean there’s not a whole lot of leak or anything even with that type of injury.

Even if I hold it like this upside down, do that again: hold it upside down.  Pretty cool product.


Dr. Shahram Salemy Close Up

Shahram Salemy, MD, FACS

Dr. Salemy is an award-winning, ASPS Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon and member of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) practicing in Seattle, WA. As Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington's School of Medicine, Department of Surgery, Division of Plastic Surgery and President of The Northwest Society of Plastic Surgeons, Dr. Shahram Salemy strives to advance the field and practice of plastic surgery for both his patients and his university students. Learn more about Dr. Shahram Salemy and his esteemed background.
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