Recent annual reports issued by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons show that approximately 20,000 breast augmentation patients undergo breast implant removal in the U.S. each year. There are a variety of reasons for women to have their implants taken out. Here are some of the most common.

Breast Implant Rupture

According to statistics collected and published in the FDA's Breast Implant Consumer Handbook in 2004, the rates of breast implant rupture vary widely based on factors such as implant type and how the implant is handled during and after surgery. Newer models seem to be less prone to failure. However, the FDA warns that 5 to 10 percent of saline filled implants tend to rupture by the 10 year mark and 10 percent of silicone gel filled implants will typically end up ruptured after 5 years. Rupture rates for both types of implants tend to increase the longer they are left in place. Patients who experience this problem are advised to undergo breast implant removal. They often choose to have the deflated implant replaced with a new one.

Concerns About Implant Safety

Even though saline and silicone implants are both approved as safe by the FDA, some women are still unsure about the potential health impact of their breast implants. These concerns typically center around fears that:

  • Implants could make breast cancer difficult to detect, increasing mortality rates
  • Silicone might be excreted in breast milk and harm breastfeeding infants
  • Silicone gel may cause systemic disease following breast implant rupture

All of these possibilities have been investigated by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an organization that is part of the National Academy of Sciences. The IOM has been unable to find any evidence suggesting that these health risks are based on fact. However, patients always have the right to request breast implant removal if they feel more comfortable not having implants in their body any longer.

Dissatisfaction with Implants

There is always a potential for a patient to change her mind about having breast implants. A woman may decide that implants don't suit her ideal image of herself. Some women find they don't like the way breast implants feel to the touch. Undergoing a thorough consultation process can help reduce the risk of regrets and decrease the chances of wanting breast implant removal for cosmetic reasons later. Some patients try wearing a prosthetic such as a padded bra for a time before moving forward with surgery to make sure they like having larger breasts.

Desired Implant Revision

Sometimes, there is nothing mechanically wrong with an implant, its size or shape just doesn't fit the recipient's tastes. Implant removal for the purposes of replacement with a larger size is fairly common. Body changes may dramatically alter the shape and appearance of implants leading to a desire for revision surgery. Such changes often include:

  • Aging
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Pregnancy

Complications From Surgery

Often, revision surgery can correct complications without the need for breast implant removal. Other times, side effects such as severe capsular contracture (hard scar tissue forming around the implant) or poor wound healing mean an implant must be taken out.

Removing Implants for Cancer Treatment

Patients with breast implants who are diagnosed with cancer may need to have their implants removed prior to receiving radiation therapy. This helps ensure the effectiveness of treatment and also reduces the risk of adverse effects to healthy tissue from the interaction between radiation and implant materials. If a mastectomy is required, existing breast implants will be removed as part of the surgery. Reconstruction may involve placing new implants in a different size or shape to restore lost volume.

Is Breast Implant Removal Becoming More Frequent?

This procedure is actually much less common now than it was ten years ago. The number of implant removals dropped over 45 percent between 2000 and 2010. The number of breast augmentation procedures increased almost 40 percent during the same time period. This may indicate that patients are becoming better informed about their breast implant choices, resulting in a greater number of satisfactory outcomes. Improvements in medical technology leading to the development of more durable breast implants may also be a factor.