Although breast augmentation remains a popular procedure among women, with nearly 300,000 procedures performed in 2013, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, a number of women are making the decision to have their implants removed. RealSelf reported that the number of implant removal procedures has increased by 27 percent since 2013. A vast majority of patients on the site gave the procedure a “Worth It” rating.
Women decide to remove their implants, sometimes called a breast explant, for a number of reasons. Implants aren’t made to last forever and in some cases, women have them replaced instead of taken out completely. But, a growing number of women are deciding to have their implants removed and not replaced.
Common Reasons for Removal
There are many reasons why you might want to remove or replace your implants. If one (or both) of the implants has ruptured, they need to be taken out, for both aesthetic reasons and for safety reasons. Another common reason for removal is something called capsular contracture.
Capsular contracture occurs when a layer of tissue develops over the implant and becomes hard. The capsule can tighten around the implant, causing the breast to look deformed. In some cases, the condition can be painful.
You may decide to have your implants removed because you no longer want to have larger breasts or because the larger breast size is causing you discomfort. Some women never get used to having larger breasts and are relieved to have their implants taken out for good. In other cases, women find that the implants contribute to back or shoulder pain or that their breasts are beginning to droop or sag under the weight of the implants. Still others find that a larger cup size makes it difficult to exercise or participate in physical activity.
Another reason for explant is that it gives you more freedom. Larger breasts can get in the way of everyday life, especially if they are very large. They also limit your fashion options. For example, it’s difficult to wear a strapless dress or to go without a bra when you’re especially busty.
While some women are happy to have their implants removed for good, others decide to replace the implants with ones of the same size or of a smaller or larger size. Depending on the state and shape of the breasts, the removal procedure may also require a breast lift, to restore shape to the breasts or to reduce sagginess.
Whether you can have a removal on its own or should also have a breast lift depends on a number of factors. If you only got the implants a short time ago and only went up a cup size or two, it’s likely that your skin will be elastic enough to bounce back to its original shape on its own. But, if you’ve had the implants for a number of years, went up several cup sizes or have had a lot of bodily changes in that time, such as pregnancy, you may require a breast lift for the best results, whether you decide to remove or replace the implants.
What happens during the removal surgery depends on whether the surgeon is taking out the implant completely or replacing it. It also depends on whether or not you’re having a lift at the same time.
No matter what happens, you’ll be under general anesthesia for the procedure. The surgeon will usually make an incision beneath the nipple or under the breast, then remove the implants. If a capsule has formed around the implant, the surgeon will typically need to remove scar tissue as well. The surgeon will then put a drain in the pocket where the implant was and close the incision. To help the pocket heal well, your breasts will be wrapped in a compression bandage.
If you’re replacing your implants, the surgeon will place sizers in the pocket after he or she takes out the old implants. The surgeon will usually inflate the sizers to the appropriate cup size, then confirm that the breasts are even. If they aren’t even, he can adjust the sizers until they are. The sizers are then taken out and replaced with the new implants.
The decision to remove your implants is one you need to make for yourself. A consultation with a plastic surgeon beforehand will help you understand what the process involves and what will happen to your breasts afterwards.
Dr. George Bitar and Dr. Robert Centeno at the Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute in the Washington, DC, area can provide guidance and help you make the right decision. Both surgeons have years of experience performing breast augmentation and removal. To schedule an appointment, call their office at (703) 206-0506 today.
George Bitar, MD, FACS is an award-winning, board-certified cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon, the Founder and Medical Director of Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute in Virginia. He specializes in the latest surgical and minimally invasive techniques to scar management and reduction. Dr. Bitar is involved in groundbreaking research and education in plastic surgery and has authored numerous articles, abstracts, and chapters.