Ask the Surgeon: How Long Do Breast Implants Last?

Learn more about breast augmentation at our Toronto plastic surgery practice

This is such a common question I am being asked weekly that I thought I would try to dust off the old myths about breast augmentation with implants, especially the infamous “10-year mark,” for my Toronto patients and others interested in the procedure

Once upon a time, in the 1990s, bad press and the lack of good scientific studies about silicone gel implants led to a temporary ban on those implants until further studies were conducted. This ban was mostly for the U.S. and Canada. At that time, Canadian and American women had access to only saline implants in North America. At the same time, silicone gel implants continued to be used in most of the rest of the world.

Silicone gel implants were subsequently duly studied (hundreds if not thousands of studies worldwide involving millions of women) and were showed to be safe. For these reasons, and because the feel is more natural with high-cohesive gel implants (aka gummy bear implants), the silicone gel implants were reintroduced in Canada shortly after 2002-03.

Now where did this “10-year longevity mark” come from? Well, the 10 year lifespan was an average of years when implants were exchanged for a variety of factors such as the following, many of which were personal preferences:

1. First and foremost, saline implants do lose a few milliliters of solution every year, and on average, after 8 to 10 years, many women lose enough volume that they want to redo the procedure. Again, those saline implants were extensively used in the 1990s and early 2000s, at the time when the Internet was flourishing, hence the ubiquitous mentions of the 10-year limit online.

2. Some other patients developed a capsular contracture, an excessive scar formation around the implants that leads to a not-so-attractive breast asymmetry. Capsular contracture occurs in 1% to 3% of patients and is corrected by the surgical removal of the capsule and exchange of implants.

3. There were the very rare cases of ruptures of implants, which required replacement.

4. Some patients had children after their breast augmentation with either saline or silicone implants and subsequently developed deflation and sagginess of their breasts, prompting a revision surgery with a lift and sometimes larger implants. This was even more common with breastfeeding.

5. Some others had chosen very large implants and once getting in their 60s or 70s, the size of their breast implants no longer fit their lifestyle. They choose to go smaller, to get a lift, or both.

6. Some other women became single again and decided to go bigger.

7. Other women desired a different shape of implants or a change in placement of their implants, either under the muscle or above the muscle, and requested an exchange of implants.

8. Finally, some women had saline implants and decided to have the newest, more natural-looking, high-cohesive gel, 5th-generation implants.

As you can see, there were many reasons that led plastic surgeons to mention the 10-year lifetime to their patients.

Today, I tell my patients that if they are still happy with the shape and size of their breasts 10 years after their augmentation procedure, and assuming that their regular breast examination and imaging are normal, there is no need to change their implants.

But they should follow-up every 102 years with their plastic surgeon.

Dr. DuPéré

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