Breast Implants—FAQ

Getting breast implants is a major decision, and with any big choice comes loads of questions. Here are some top questions (and answers) organized by each phase of your journey, from your first consultation and the actual surgery to your recovery and later revisions.

Your Breast Augmentation Consultation

I will have the opportunity to feel different types of breast implants when I go to my consult. What should I expect?

Silicone gel implants feel softer and more natural than saline implants. You might compare saline breast implants to a balloon or Ziploc bag filled with water. Silicone gel implants are equivalent to a balloon or Ziploc bag filled with jelly or hair gel.

What do implants feel like once they're inside the body?

Think back to how your breasts felt when you were a teenager. Saline breast implants feel firm (both inside and outside the body), while silicone gel breast implants feel softer and more natural.

Do breast implants get hard?

No, the implants themselves do not get hard. However, in the event of capsular contracture (when scar tissue forms around the implant), your breasts will feel firm. This is because the scar capsule shrinks and squeezes the implant, thus making it feel firm. In actuality, when the implant is removed it feels just as it did when it was placed during the initial surgery.

Do breast implants have an expiration date?

Implants do not have an expiration date, but they are also not lifetime devices either. For some women, their implants may last for more than 30 years. Others? Maybe only a few years. There is no way to determine how long they will last, and there a number of reasons why they fail, including rupture.

Will I be able to breastfeed with implants?

Most women can breastfeed with implants, however keep in mind that some women are never able to breastfeed even without implants. If you have difficulty, there may be other underlying conditions preventing you from doing this. Breast implants themselves do not pose any medical threat to your child.

Is there a difference in the texture of the Mentor and McGhan implants?

Yes. Mentor implants have a very fine grained texture. McGhan has a coarser texture.

Will overfilling or underfilling the implant cause ripples?

Either can cause ripples, but underfilling is especially responsible for this.

If the implant is overfilled, it may pull at the edges, thus causing the rippling effect (and it will also cause the implant to feel firmer). Most importantly, understand that even with an optimal fill, you may still have rippling.

Will overfilling or underfilling my implants void the manufacturer's warranty?

Yes, if the implant is not filled within the manufacturer's specifications, the company reserves the right to void the warranty. If your surgeon decides to over/under fill, you need a written agreement that ensures the same coverage for expenses that the warranty covers in the event of a rupture.

Breast Implant Surgery

How long does the breast implant procedure take?

It varies on a case-by-case basis, but generally one to two hours.

What type of anesthesia does the surgeon use?

Plastic surgeons usually use general anesthesia during a breast implant procedure.

Does a capsular contracture cause the implant's shell to weaken or rupture?

There are varying opinions on this. Some say no because there is equal amounts of force being exerted on the implant. However according to Mentor and McGhan, it's possible for very severe cases of capsule contracture to rupture the implant. Thankfully, this is not a common problem.

What are the rupture rates of Mentor implants?

In a prospective clinical study conducted by Mentor, the rates of first occurrence of deflation were 3% for 1,264 augmentation patients and 9% for 416 reconstruction patients.

Post-Breast Implant Surgery

What is a device card?

A device card is one of the most important pieces of information you will receive regarding your implants. The card contains the catalog number and LOT numbers for your implants. Your doctor will give you this card after surgery. You may need this card in the years to come, so store it in a safe and secure place.

Do implants make noises like sloshing or squeaking?

These noises are common during the first few days after surgery, and they are caused by air in the pocket. They will dissipate anywhere from a few days to a few weeks post-op.

Be aware, sloshing may also be the result of an underfilled implant. For example, if you have a Mentor 300cc implant, Mentor recommends filling it to at least 300cc, and no more than 325cc. If the implant is filled to, say, 275cc, you may get a sloshing effect. Thankfully, the vast majority of doctors fill the implant to the minimum manufacturer recommendation, at the very least. Overfilling the implant seems more common than underfilling.

Recovery After Breast Augmentation

How long is the recovery time after the operation?

As with all surgery, your body needs adequate time for recuperation. If have an office job, you can return to work within a few days. However, don't do any heavy lifting for at least three weeks after your operation, and don't resume a rigorous workout regime until at least a month after.

Can bacteria or fungus get inside the implant once it's placed in my body?

Bacteria are too large to pass through the microscopic pores of the implant shell. If bacteria or fungus enter the shell, it likely happens at the time of surgery when the surgeon injects the saline solution is into the implant. If you have a reputable surgeon, this is unlikely to happen.

What are the symptoms of a ruptured silicone implant?

If you notice your breasts decrease in size or shape, or nodules, pain and/or tenderness in your breast including numbness, tingling, burning, or swelling, your silicone implant may have silently ruptured. A silent rupture happens sometimes, and you are usually none-the-wiser. Doctors use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify a suspected rupture or leakage of a silicone breast implant.

Breast Implant Revision

Do breast implants last a lifetime?

No. In fact, breast implant manufacturers themselves state that implants are not lifetime devices. The chances of having at least one more surgery in your lifetime are pretty high. However, some women have had implants for more than 20 years without problems.

Can I have saline added to my implants after the surgery?

Most breast implants are refillable after surgery. This is a simple office procedure that your surgeon does with local anesthetic. However, the Mentor High Profile saline implants, Mentor Spectrum Expandable, and Mentor Becker Expandable implants are not refillable once the fill port is taken out. It's also important to remember that having saline added or removed after the port has been closed may damage the integrity of the valve, making it more prone to leakage.

If I need surgery for bottoming out, capsular contracture, etc., will my surgeon be able to use the same implant I've always had?

Breast implants are one-time use devices. However, according to implant manufacturers, it also depends on the surgery being performed, as well as proper judgment regarding whether a new implant is necessary.

Updated May 2017

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