Woman examining her breast

Breast augmentation has one of the highest satisfaction rates of any form of plastic surgery. 98% of patients report the results met or exceeded expectations. However, no medical procedure satisfies every patient 100% of the time. There is always the risk that results will disappoint you or that complications will occur. For these reasons, women sometimes seek breast implant removal in the months or years following augmentation.

The prospect of further surgery can be disheartening, but breast implant removal is a low-risk, effective procedure that can help you feel better about your body.

Why Do Women Seek Breast Implant Removal?

Despite the high overall satisfaction rate, not everyone is happy with how breast implants look or feel. Your practitioner can give you a general idea of how your figure will change post-augmentation, but no one can predict results with complete certainty. Patients may opt for implant removal if they are unhappy with their post-surgical appearance or augmented feel.  

Complications, while rare, sometimes include pain, discomfort, and a lower quality of life. Not everyone’s body responds well to implants. Some patients even feel that their implants are causing health problems like fatigue, dry mouth, headaches, and gastrointestinal issues.

Women who are considering becoming pregnant may want their implants removed. Though implants have not been shown to affect milk production, some women prefer not to have them in place while breast feeding. While research shows you can safely breastfeed with implants, many women prefer to remove implants out of an abundance of caution.

Implants are also not lifetime medical devices. Over time, patients often experience issues such as capsular contracture, implant migration, leaks, ruptures, or asymmetry. If you have had your implants for 10 years or more, they may need removal and replacement.

What Happens During Implant Removal Surgery?

First, you will have a consultation with your practitioner. They will examine your breasts, provide treatment recommendations, and talk over your medical history. You may also need to do routine blood work to ensure you are healthy enough to undergo surgery.

Your surgeon will give you instructions about how to prepare for your procedure. Instructions will vary from patient to patient, but make sure to listen closely and follow your practitioner’s guidelines.

Implant removal is performed under general anesthesia. Medical staff will sterilize the breasts and surrounding area thoroughly to prevent infection.

Your surgeon will then make an incision. Incisions are usually made under the breast or around the areola, but this varies from patient to patient. The site of the incision depends on factors such as the position of your implants and how to best reduce scarring.

Once the incision is made, your surgeon will remove your implants. If the tissue capsule that has formed around the implants is problematic or abnormal, your surgeon may remove part or all of the capsule as well.

Once the implants are removed, your surgeon closes the incisions with sutures and places bandages around your chest to prevent infection or rupture. In some cases, you may need drains placed to reduce swelling and fluid build-up around the breasts.

How Do You Recover From Implant Removal?

Recovery from implant removal is similar to recovering from augmentation, although it can be quicker and less intense. Full recovery takes about 6 weeks on average. 

During this time, you will experience some swelling and minor pain near your chest. This can be managed with over-the-counter medications. If you experience intense pain, contact your surgeon.

For the first few weeks post-surgery, refrain from upper body work and strenuous exercise. Your surgeon can give you an exact timeline regarding when you can resume regular physical activity. 

Make sure to follow your surgeon’s instructions closely to avoid complications.

What Risks Are Associated With Breast Implant Removal?

No medical procedure is risk-free. Complications can include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage, which can impact nipple sensation
  • An allergic reaction to anesthesia or other medications
  • Long-lasting pain 

Most complications are non-life threatening and can be treated with prompt medical intervention. If you experience symptoms like intense pain, fever, discharge, or nausea, contact a doctor right away. If there is sudden swelling of one or both breasts, you should also contact your surgeon because this can indicate bleeding in the breasts.

There may also be cosmetic side effects of implant removal such as scarring and loose, sagging skin. These issues can often be corrected with non-surgical body contouring treatments that are designed to improve skin elasticity and appearance. Such procedures come with little downtime or recovery and carry less risks than surgery. 

What Are Alternatives To Breast Implants?

Breast implants are not for everyone, but they are not the only form of breast augmentation. If you were unhappy with breast implants, fat grafting may be a better option.

During fat grafting, your surgeon removes fat from another part of the body – like the stomach or the thighs – and redistributes it to the breasts. Many women feel the final results look and feel more natural than implants. This can also be done at the time of implant removal to replace the lost volume.

The Bottom Line

Not everyone is happy with their breast implants, but implant removal is a low-risk surgery with a quick recovery time. There are other forms of augmentation worth considering if you were unsatisfied with your original procedure. 

If you are considering implant removal, talk over your expectations carefully with your surgeon ahead of time to ensure that you get the results you want.

Ready to get started? Leif Rogers is an Ivy League-educated, board-certified plastic surgeon. If you’re interested in implant removal, get in touch with his team to schedule a consultation.

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