“Fixing” Breast Implants Gone Bad

Breast augmentation remains among the most common cosmetic surgeries performed each year. While commonly done, it is also commonly done “badly.” Revising breast augmentations is among the most difficult procedures that plastic surgeons perform. Unfortunately, revising breast augmentations from other surgeons remains common in my practice.

In order to understand how problems can be fixed, we must first understand where problems can occur. I like to categorize these problems into 4 major areas:

1. Problem with the implant itself
2. Problem with the size of the implant
3. Problem with the procedure choice
4. Problem with healing

Choosing the implant is of crucial importance and I have written specifically about this in previous blog entries. The shape, texture, and size of implant must be carefully chosen to match your body. Many problems that can occur can be the direct result of choosing an implant that is too big for your body. This can result in implants touching each other in the center (synnmastia), implants appearing to “hang off” the sides, or augmented breasts that now appear “droopy”. Breast implants have a specific width, depending on the size. Your doctor should carefully measure the width of your chest (“base diameter”) so that the proper implant size can be chosen.

Implants must be placed within a carefully created implant pocket. If the implant pocket is too big, then the implant may move around in an unnatural position. If the pocket is not centered under your nipple, then the implant will be positioned too much to the center of your chest or the side. If the pocket is too small, then your implant may be “constricted” and take on an oval shape instead of the natural round shape.

There are also several variations in the type of breast augmentation that is performed. The implants can be placed above or below the muscle. Also, some women come to my office because they want “perkier” breasts and mistakenly think that breast implants will give them a lift. While breast implants do result in a slight lift of the breast tissue, breast augmentation primarily makes the breast larger and will not adequately correct a “drooping” breast. This would require a breast lift, possible with the simultaneous placement of implants. There is complex decision making that must occur, even before you get to the operating room.

Even if your surgeon chooses the right procedure, the correct implant size, and does everything perfectly in the operating room, your body still must heal. Not only must your body heal correctly on the outside (the incision), it must heal correctly on the inside. Abnormal scar formation on the inside may result in capsular contracture – or hardening around the implant. We now know that bacteria and blood can place you at increased risk of this abnormal scar formation, but there are some women who seem to be “predisposed” to capsular contracture. If it can be recognized early, there are some things that we can do to slow the progression.

So, “fixing” the problem relies on the surgeon’s ability to identify what the cause is. Revisional surgery may include exchanging implants to a sixe better suited for your body, enlarging or reducing the implant pocket, removing abnormal scar tissue, or performing a completely different operation than had been done originally (i.e. a breast lift). Some of these complications are avoidable by selecting a surgeon who understands the complexities of breast surgery. However, sometimes problems can occur that are not preventable, but revisional techniques are evolving and surgeons experienced in these complex revisional surgeries can improve things.

Contact us if you have any further questions about fixing bad implants. We will be happy to help!