Breast Implant Removal Surgery

Breast Implant Removal Surgery: What You Should Know

Breast augmentation is one of the most common plastic surgery procedures performed today. However, there are also situations where breast implants will need to be removed from specific patients. It’s essential to understand what this implant removal process entails, what to expect with the outcomes after the removal, and any potential risks associated with breast implant removal surgery.

Learn the reasons people consider removal, along with the risks, costs, and considerations involved.

Why Consider Breast Implant Removal Surgery?

The first reason to consider a procedure like this is that breast implants don’t last forever—they technically don’t have an “expiration date,” per se, but they have a limited lifespan. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, that’s about 10-15 years. There are additional reasons to consider removal.

One of the most common things that cause people to seek removal is scar tissue. Over time, the scar tissue around the implants can become hardened, in a condition known as capsular contracture. It can change the implants’ appearance, but more importantly, it can cause extreme pain and discomfort for some. Removal of the implants is the only solution in most cases.

Other common reasons for breast implant removal surgery include situations like:

  • Implant leaking
  • Calcium deposit buildup
  • Autoimmune response or rejection of the implant
  • Pain or discomfort caused by the implants
  • Movement or shifting of the implants within the chest
  • A change in the appearance of the breasts and or implants over time
  • Implants feel bulky and uncomfortable and make one feel obese

Of course, the final reason people consider removal surgery is quite simple: they’ve changed their minds and want to have their implants removed or change their size to meet their new cosmetic needs or goals.

The Procedure Explained

The removal of breast implants is performed in a surgery center, outpatient operating room facility, or hospital. In the best case, the same surgeon who did the original procedure will do the removal because they will be familiar with their patients and their previous surgeries. It isn’t necessary, however, as many well trained plastic surgeons can perform this surgery.  There are, however, nuances to the operation that requires specific expertise to get optimal outcomes.

You will start by having a consultation with your surgeon ahead of time. They will ask your goals, why you want the implants removed, and other similar questions. They may also inquire about your existing medications, medical conditions, and previous surgeries. They will evaluate your overall health, provide recommendations, and disclose any possible complications or risks that you could face.

They will also give you instructions for pre-surgery preparation, including how to bathe, what to wear, and when to refrain from drinking and eating before surgery.

The Surgery

For those who are curious, the procedure will typically follow the steps outlined here.

  1. First, the anesthesiologist will deliver anesthesia. Most procedures are performed with general anesthesia, which means that patients are fully asleep and unaware of what is happening. You’ll also be given medication for nausea and pain during the surgery and after it is finished. Other surgeons perform this surgery under twilight anesthesia as well.
  2. The skin will then be cleaned and prepped for the incision to prevent infection and make the procedure as clean as possible. The surgeon will choose an incision point that provides the most comfortable access to the implants and the least visible scarring risk when possible.
  3. Once the skin has been opened up, the implant and/or scar tissue will be removed. Removing the implant itself is a fairly quick process. If the surgeon decides to remove any or all of the tissue capsule, that will take longer and be more invasive, in most cases.
  4. After the work has been done, the incision will be closed. Most surgeons use sutures or glue-like surgical adhesives, or a combination of both. They will bandage and dress the area to keep the incisions clean and allow them to heal. In some cases, drains may also be placed to help remove excess blood or fluid from the breasts after surgery.
  5. You’ll be monitored after surgery for a short period. They will keep an eye on pain levels, the actual surgery site, and your vital signs. Someone will need to drive you home and it will be up to your surgeon as to how long after your procedure you can leave. Most people are sent home within a few hours.

What to Expect in Recovery

The recovery process starts with education—your nurse or another healthcare provider will give you self-care discharge instructions to explain what to expect, how to care for your incisions, how to bathe and dress carefully, pain relief options, and more. You’ll also get information on how long to wait before resuming “normal activity” and when to call the doctor if there are potential concerns or complications.

A “typical” recovery period doesn’t really exist. Some people may heal faster or slower depending on their body and other factors. However, anyone undergoing breast implant removal surgery should expect a recovery time of several weeks (usually between six to 8 weeks).

Here are some other important points:

  • There may be some swelling, pain, and discomfort shortly after surgery. Your range of motion will be limited at first and will improve over time.
  • The best way to avoid complications or risks is to follow your surgeon’s instructions carefully and rest as appropriate. Many common issues arise from people attempting to return to activity too soon or not following recovery instructions.
  • If the pain and swelling don’t go away within a few weeks or if it gets worse, you need to contact your surgeon as soon as possible. You should also notify them immediately of any unusual symptoms or side effects.

The Risks of Breast Implant Removal Surgery

As with any surgery, there are some potential risks and complications to consider. You’ll want to discuss all of these with your surgeon before you decide if this is the right procedure.

There is also the concern that the appearance of the removed implants may not be pleasing. In this case, surgeons may discuss non-implant options like breast lift surgery or a fat graft to fill out the area where the implants were removed.

Other possible complications to note include:

  • Bleeding or fluid accumulation
  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Ongoing pain
  • Skin discoloration or necrosis (skin death)
  • Nerve damage
  • Anesthesia-related issues like allergic reactions or nausea

Breast Implant Removal Cost

Several factors affect the cost of breast implant removal surgery. More complex procedures will obviously have higher costs, and some people may have different costs for medications, recovery treatment, and other fees. However, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of removal surgery can range between $7,000-$15,000 depending on the complexity, time and additional procedures beyond removal. These can include, a breast lift, fat grafting, breast reduction and scar revision.

This cost includes the surgery itself, including the surgeon’s fee. You will also have to pay for facility fees, anesthesia, post-surgery medications, and other expenses. There may also be a need to purchase specialty post-surgery bras. Typically, this is an out-of-pocket expense, unless your doctor can prove that implant removal is necessary for your health.  Even when in circumstances where it is covered by a good insurance plan, often additional work is not covered beyond the simple removal of the implants.

If the procedure is entirely cosmetic, most insurance companies will not cover the services. However, insurance may cover part or all of the removal procedure in situations like:

  • Breast cancer found in the breast with the implant present
  • Severe scarring that interferes with other health needs, like mammogram screenings
  • Frequent implant-related infections
  • Persistent swelling or pain post-surgery or an inability to heal

Most companies have a policy that outlines what they will and won’t cover. It’s best  to discuss your situation with your insurance company and the specific plan to find out what is covered specifically.

The Verdict

You will want to be sure to have a conversation with your surgeon about the best course of action based on your needs and goals. Since these implants aren’t designed to last a lifetime, this procedure is a lot more common than people think. If you’re considering removal, make sure that you sit down and talk to your surgeon about it.  Spend time to understand all the implications around the decision.

The bottom line is that you need to be informed and prepared for health decisions and surgical procedures like breast implant removal. Now that you have the facts, you can decide on your best course of action.

Posted in: Breast Augmentation, Breast Lift, Breast Reduction

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