Choosing to get 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. You can equate silicone gel implants to a balloon or Ziploc bag filled with jelly or hair gel.
What do implants feel like once they're inside the body?
You might equate the feel of your implants to how they 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 that capsular contracture occurs (when scar tissue forms around the implant), your breasts will feel firm. This is due to the scar capsule shrinking and squeezing 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?
No, implants themselves do not have an expiration date, but they also should not be considered lifetime devices either. For some women, their implants may last for more than 20 to 30 years; for others, they may only last a few years. There is no way to determine how long they will last, and the reasons for their failure could be due to a number of things, including rupture.
Will I be able to breastfeed with implants?
Most women are able to breastfeed with implants. However, keep in mind that some women are never able to breastfeed even without implants, so if you have difficulty, there may be other causes preventing you from being successful. Breast implants themselves will 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 especially underfilling. 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). If the implant is underfilled, folds in the implant will result in a rippling effect, as well. It's important to know that even with 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 may reserve the right to void the warranty. If your surgeon decides to over/under fill, it's advisable to get it in writing that he will cover the 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 anesthesia will be used?
General anesthesia is commonly used during a breast implant procedure.
Will having capsular contracture cause the implant's shell to weaken or rupture?
There seems to be 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 does not seem to be a common problem.
What are the rupture rates of Mentor and McGhan 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. In a prospective clinical study conducted by McGhan, the rates of first occurrence of deflation were 5% for the 901 augmentation patients and 6% for the 237 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 in regards to your implants. The card contains the catalog number and lot numbers for your implants. Your doctor should 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, caused by air in the pocket. However, they will dissipate anywhere from a few days to a few weeks post-op.
Sloshing may also be the result of an underfilled implant. For example, if you have a Mentor 300cc implant, Mentor recommends that the implant be filled 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, it's important to take adequate time for your body to recuperate. If your job is sedentary, it may be possible to return to work a few days post-op. 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 would most likely happen at the time of surgery, when the saline solution is being put 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 or pain or tenderness in your breast including numbness, tingling, burning, or swelling, your silicone implant may have silently ruptured. A silent rupture sometimes happens, and usually in this case you would have no idea you experienced one. Doctors use MRI (an imaging test) to identify a suspected rupture or leakage of a silicone breast implant.
Breast Implant Revision
Do breast implants last a lifetime?
Anything is possible, but in general, the answer to this question is no. In fact, breast implant manufacturers such as Mentor and McGhan state that implants are not considered lifetime devices. The chances of having at least one more surgery in your lifetime are pretty high. However, some women have had implants for 20+ years and have never had a problem. The average life expectancy of a breast implant is 16 years, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Can I have saline added to my implants after the surgery?
Most breast implants will allow for additional saline to be added (or removed) after surgery. This is a simple office procedure that can be done under local anesthetic. However, the Mentor High Profile saline implants, Mentor Spectrum Expandable, and Mentor Becker Expandable implants cannot have saline added or removed 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 the judgment of the surgeon as to whether or not a new implant is necessary.
Updated October 2016