- Breast implant removal surgery takes between 1 to 3 hours and is performed with or without a breast lift.
- Breast appearance after implant removal varies, with some women finding that their breasts retract back to a condition similar to their pre-surgery breasts by 6 months to 1 year.
- You may return to work within 5 days but expect to limit certain physical activity or about 6 weeks.
Breast implants are not lifetime devices. Some women will have their implants removed due to complications like recurrent capsular contracture and persistent breast pain, while others will voluntarily have the procedure because the implants no longer fit their lifestyle or who they are now.
If you're thinking about breast implant removal, you should be aware of how the procedure works and how it may affect breast appearance. For those who want to keep their implants, options may be available to correct the problem without complete removal.
Breast implant removal without replacement (breast explant surgery)
Breast implant removal surgery is performed with or without a lift. It takes between 1 to 3 hours and is done under general anesthesia. How well you recover immediately after the procedure will determine if you go home the same day.
Breast implant removal only
The surgeon makes an incision along the inframammary fold (breast crease) or around the nipple (areola). The breast tissue is dissected and the muscle (if unders) is lifted to expose the implant.
The implants are removed and either the capsules surrounding them are left behind to deflate and collapse upon themselves, or a portion or all of the capsules (en bloc capsulectomy) are cut and taken out.
Credit: Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Removing the entire capsule keeps the implant inside and intact, and is particularly useful in cases where the implant has ruptured or capsular contracture is present. If you have silicone implant rupture, the silicone material from the leak is removed and in cases of capsular contracture, the scar tissue is eliminated.
Your incisions are sutured and covered with a surgical dressing you wear for about 1 week. If drains are placed in each breast pocket, they remain for approximately 3 days after surgery to combat fluid buildup.
Breast implant removal and lift
The amount of volume loss and breast droop, as well as tissue quality and skin laxity, are markers that tell your surgeon if a breast lift is necessary and if so, which type.
Depending on the lift type, incisions are made along the breast crease, around the nipple, and/or from the bottom of the areola to the crease of the breast. Breast tissue is dissected and muscle is pulled up to give access to the implants.
Credit: Elliot M. Hirsch, MD
Once the implants and any capsules or scar tissue are removed, the surgeon excises excess skin and tissue, repositions the nipples higher on the breasts, and tightens breast tissue with internal sutures so that the breasts take on a rounder, perkier appearance.
The incisions are closed, the chest is bandaged, and drains may be placed to prevent fluid buildup.
Breast appearance after implant removal
When breast implants and their capsules (if done) are removed, the breasts may sag and be empty in the four quadrants of the breasts, causing them to appear deflated and droopy. The breast tissue/skin may be thin, and there may also be dimpling or indentations in the skin.
Some women get a breast lift during breast implant removal surgery, while others wait at least 6 months for tissue settling to see whether a breast lift or revision are necessary. Sometimes, when the tissue settles, women find that their breasts return back to a condition similar, though not exact, to their pre-surgery breasts.
Breast implant removal recovery
A straight-forward breast implant removal procedure tends to be an easy recovery. Extensive work to remove the breast capsules, scar tissue, or perform a breast lift, however, increase discomfort and recovery time. In these cases, the breasts feel heavy and tight for a few weeks.
Medication may be prescribed to help with the pain, and you discontinue use after a few days. Many women return to work and light activities within 5 days, though physical limitations for weight lifting and strenuous activity may be imposed for up to 6 weeks.
Scarring depends on whether you had a breast lift and if so, which type. Scars do not fade completely but lighten and soften over the course of 1 to 2 years.
Breast implant removal complications
Breast implant removal surgery has similar complications as breast augmentation. When a highly-trained, board-certified surgeon does breast implant removal surgery, the following complications are minimized:
- Breast and nipple sensitivity
- Breast or nipple numbness
- Reddened or thick scars
- Breast sag, thin skin, or deflated appearance
- Breast deformity
- Animation deformity after removing the implant from behind the muscle
- Dimpling or dents in the breast tissue
- Fluid accumulation (seroma)
Breast implant removal cost
The cost of breast implant removal surgery averages $2,566, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This does not include the surgeon's fees, which are based on experience, the type of procedure, and geographic location. Surgical costs increase with more complex work like an en bloc capsulectomy or a breast lift.
Breast implant removal insurance
Insurance does not cover breast implant removal unless medically necessary. Each insurer and plan specify coverage and include terminology for what defines medically necessary and at what point insurance will pay for surgery.
Understand your particular coverage information by reading your plan or speaking with a company representative.
In cases where insurance does not cover the procedure, some plastic surgeons offer financing plans, so be sure to ask.
Talk to a surgeon about breast implant removal
Consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon to find out what your options are for removal, or if there is a procedure better suited for you. Not all surgeons are trained in or offer every option for breast implant removal (such as en bloc capsulectomy), so be prepared to schedule multiple consultations.
Hirsch E. (2017). Breast implant removal, total capsulectomy, and breast lift. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=323&v=l3ZGnzEm1bg
American Society of Plastic Surgeons. (2018). How much does breast implant removal cost? Retrieved from https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/breast-implant-removal/cost
American Society of Plastic Surgeons. (2018). What is breast implant removal surgery? Retrieved from https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/breast-implant-removal
Hunt J. (2017). Need to have your breast implants removed? Here's what to expect. Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. Retrieved from https://aestheticplasticsurgeons.org.au/news/breast-implants-removal-what-to-expect/
Buford G. Breast Implant Removal. Beauty by Buford. Retrieved from https://www.beautybybuford.com/breast/breast-implant-removal/