The decision to get breast implants can be life-changing. And once you make the decision, you want a lifetime of benefits. However, a single set of breast implants won’t last forever. So, is there anything you can do to prolong the life of your implants? Yes and no. Some choices you make increase your chances of being satisfied with the implant. But as for wearing out: it’s a little less clear cut.
Your choice of a surgeon is the first important factor. You should only use a Board Certified surgeon (certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery® or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada®). For further qualifications, look for a surgeon who belongs to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), since surgeons need additional training to be certified by these organizations.
Next, implant selection is key, which means deciding between silicone and saline. There are various factors, but your ultimate satisfaction is probably the biggest. “All saline implants deflate,” says Grant Stevens, M.D., F.A.C.S., medical director of Marina Plastic Surgery in Marina del Rey, CA. The saline leaks at a rate of one to five percent a year (but it can be higher). As it leaks, it deflates. “A saline implant is like a water balloon,” Dr. Steven says. In his experience, they wear out more quickly, and women are dissatisfied.
Silicone gel implants may have more longevity, but they’re still not forever. “We know that the gels do wear out, and can also rupture,” Dr. Stevens says. As for how long to leave your silicone implants in place if there is no rupture: “No one is sure of the right time to replace silicone implants,” he says, although most surgeons are now recommending 10 – 15 years. Your surgeon will also suggest having your silicone implants looked at via MRI (that’s the best way to tell how the gel is faring). But the problem is that MRIs are expensive. Most insurance companies don’t cover MRIs for breast implants (it’s always worth checking though), so it tends to be cash. That can make MRIs cost prohibitive.
Breast Implant Warranties
Allergan and Mentor, the two largest manufacturers of breast implants, recognize that their products are not lifetime products. Both provide warranties that will replace the implants. Allergan’s lifetime product replacement agreement states: “Regardless of the age of the implant, Allergan provides product replacement in the event of a deflation or rupture due to loss of shell integrity.” Mentor has the same guarantee: “In the event of a qualifying deflation of a Saline-Filled Breast Implant or rupture of a MemoryGel® Breast Implant, Mentor will replace the product, free of charge, for the lifetime of the patient.” Remember that it’s the device that is under warranty; this doesn’t include surgeon, hospital, and anesthesia fees.
However, in addition to lifetime replacement, both companies offer warranties that cover some out-of-pocket medical expenses, with options to purchase extended warranties that cover more expenses. You should closely investigate the warranties (both are outlined on the manufacturers’ sites (mentorwwllc.com and natrelle.com) and make sure you understand what things can invalidate the warranty (like overfilling saline implants, or certain treatments for capsular contracture, for example).
Talk to your surgeon to see what else they recommend for getting the most out of your implants. In general, your day-to-day activities will not impact how long your implants last (for example, exercise doesn’t make them wear out more quickly). Bottom line: enjoy your implants instead of worrying about replacement, and make sure that you have a surgeon you trust.