As a Plastic Surgeon, I have heard the concern: “I heard you have to get breast implants replaced every ten years” often. This is a common myth about the risk of silicone breast implant rupture. This contributes to the confusion surrounding the safety of breast augmentation surgery. In fact, with modern implants, even the word “rupture” is misleading.
1. Implant rupture really should be called “shell cracking”.
Modern silicone implants are very “gummy bear”. This means the gel is very thick. Even if you cut one of these implants in half, it wouldn’t change shape. The gel is covered with a silicone rubber shell. In the unlikely event of “rupture”, the shell simply cracks. The implant doesn’t change shape and gobs of silicone don’t pour out. So from now on in this blog post, I’m going to use the term “shell cracking” instead of rupture.
2. Shell cracking is unlikely.
The chance of shell cracking varies among different brands, but I use the type of implant with the lowest risk. According to the latest studies, the chance of this happening is 3% at 3 years post-op and 7.7% at 14 years.
3. Shell cracking is harmless.
No adverse health effects are associated with shell cracking.
4. I don’t recommend routine MRI or implant replacement.
Although the FDA “recommends” an MRI to check for implant shell cracking 3 years after surgery and every 2 years after that, essentially no patients do this, and for good reason. They would be checking for something that is unlikely to have happened and is harmless even if it did. Also, the patient would have to pay for this expensive test. It should be noted that the FDA doesn’t make rules or laws, they simply make recommendations and it is up to the physician and the patient to decide together what is right for her.
The FDA does not recommend breast implant replacement every ten years. This myth probably came from the FDA’s estimation that about 20% of patients will get their implants exchanged in 8-10 years after surgery, but this is for many reasons – most commonly that the patient chose to be a different size or shape.
When considering breast augmentation, Baltimore, I hope that sheds some light on this common myth about implant safety!