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I had saline implant augmentation done 6 years ago. I recently read an article that...

Q:

I had saline implant augmentation done 6 years ago. I recently read an article that said saline implants last 7-12 years. Is this true? If so, how does one know the right time for replacement?

A:

In response to your question regarding the life expectancy of implants and decisions regarding replacement, Mentor Aesthetics, one of the 2 major implant manufacturers in the United States , has studies that show the deflation rate of saline implants is approximately 3 percent at 5 years and may be higher than 10 percent after 10 years. Although some implant manufacturers have estimated the life expectancy of saline-filled implants to be between 10-12 years, there are many patients who have had saline implants in place for over 30 years without any problems. I expect that a significant number of patients may have saline breast implants in place their entire lifetime without any problems. It is usually not difficult to ascertain if a saline implant has lost integrity or leaked, as the breast volume will decrease. The saline solution that would leak out of a deflated implant is the same as the fluid that runs through an intravenous catheter during surgery, and it is rapidly absorbed by your body. One potential hazard, which has been postulated, is the possibility of bacteria colonizing the inside of the saline implant and subsequently causing an infection if ruptured. I have never seen this, and the clinical incidence of this is probably insignificant. Aside from this potential hazard, there aren't many good reasons to replace a perfectly good implant on a routine basis. In my practice, I replace implants for problems such as rupture or capsular contracture and I do not recommend the routine replacement of implants. My incidence of implant replacement for rupture has been less than 3 percent over the past 10 years. In regard to your question, I would not recommend that you replace your breast implants unless you are experiencing a specific problem.

Paul D. Faringer, M.D.
Honolulu, HI

A:

It is impossible to state with certainty how long your saline breast implants will last however I have seen patients who have had them in for 20-30 years and they are still fine. there is a lot of confusion about how long implants will last after breast augmentation based on the FDA study which suggested that 23% of patients will need a second procedure in 10 years.  That 23% also includes patients who simply want larger implants and do not have anything wrong with her first implantation.

If your breast implants have not deflated, if they are soft, and you're happy with their appearance there is no need to remove them.

A:

There is a myth that implants will last only 10 years. There is no valid scientific data to support that statement. You should realize that no one can guarantee the life cycle of an implant, that it may not last forever and it may not be a one-time surgery. Implants do not need to be replaced unless a problem occurs. There is no expiration date on breast implants. I have personally seen some patients who have had implants in for over thirty years and the implants are still intact. The newer generation of current implants has been improved. The implant manufacturers do have limited warranties on the implants.

Robert Singer, MD FACS

La Jolla, California

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