The Basics of What to Expect from Breast Implant Removal Surgery

As much as we would like them to, breast implants don’t last forever. If you’re not planning to replace your breast implants, they will eventually need to be removed.

Women choose to remove their implants for a variety of reasons, including wanting to have a more natural look again and dealing with complications. Capsular contraction, implant migration (movement out of position) and rupture are the three most common reasons why women choose to have their implants removed. In some instances, breast implants are removed for health reasons, including systemic symptoms that can’t be explained, which some call breast implant illness.

If you are looking to go the same route, here is what you can expect during and after the removal procedure, known as explant surgery.

The Implant Removal Procedure: A Look at What Happens

During a breast implant removal procedure, your surgeon will reverse the augmentation process.

An incision will be made in the crease below the breast, which will be longer than on implant insertion. If your original incision was also in the crease, any scar tissue present will also be removed, leaving a single scar.

A decision will need to be made regarding what is done to the capsule. When the capsules are soft and have no complications, the implants are intact and no further implants are being considered, then a partial capsulectomy may be undertaken. For some there are problems with the capsule or the implant such as capsular contracture or implant rupture. In others there is concern about Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma or delayed seroma. For these women an en bloc or total capsulectomy may be required.

Once A/Prof Magnusson is happy with the state of the breast pocket, the pectoral muscle is sutured to the chest wall and the incisions will be closed. The dressings involve a soft bra without an underwire for comfort and mild compression.

The average breast implant removal surgery takes about two hours to complete. There are also several different implant removal methods that can be used. All of these will be discussed with you during your consultation.

Implant Removal Recovery: A Look at What Happens

Just like the original augmentation procedure, recovery will differ for every patient. After breast implant removal surgery, drains will be inserted into the old implant pocket and removed at a later date.

Patients should aim to spend about a week with reduced activities at home once their implants are removed. While returning to work after a week will be possible, significant exercise should be avoided for at least six weeks to allow time for the muscle to repair.

Your post-operative bra will be worn for about six weeks. The necessary aftercare instructions and activity restrictions will help minimise the risk of complications.

Implant Removal & Breast Lifts

A common question that many implant removal patients ask is whether they will need a breast lift. This is all dependent on the skin elasticity, nipple position and overhang onto the lower chest. If your implants were large and skin laxity is present, you may experience droop and sag that will require a lift.

By undergoing a lift at the same time as removal, your natural breasts will sit higher on the chest, be firmer and result in a more youthful end result. This additional procedure will increase the length and complexity of the surgery, however is commonly performed.

During your breast implant removal consultation at our clinic, A/Prof Magnusson can tell you whether you should consider a breast lift at the same time as the implant removal – it isn’t always necessary.

Replacing Your Breast Volume

Removing your implants will re-reveal the reason that implants were originally considered, commonly through emptiness in the upper breast, less distinct cleavage and side breast lines. There is always the option to exchange your current implants for new implants. If you decide to replace your implants, you will need to consider smooth vs textured implants, size, gel consistency and shape.

An alternative is to consider breast fat grafting. Fat grafting is very good at filling the hollow of the upper breast, accentuating the cleavage and lateral breast lines, but doesn’t provide the same ability to increase breast size that an implant does. The grafted breast feels softer, more natural and has less projection than the implanted breast. For women who are relatively happy with the size of their natural breast or simply don’t want further implants, fat grafting can be an excellent choice.

You will also need to consider the implant position and possibly an implant pocket change, or the need to control a loose pocket associated with implant migration or lax tissues. For these women, we may need to consider the use of an internal bra to retain control of the implant position, strengthen the tissues to reduce the stretch of the lower pole and control the pectoralis muscle.

While all of these requirements increase the complexity of surgery, they are commonly required and performed.

If you feel that breast implant removal or replacement is the best next step for you, be sure to undergo a thorough consultation with a fully qualified Specialist Plastic Surgeon like A/Prof Mark Magnusson to perform this surgery.