During breast augmentation consultations women frequently make a comment, or ask a question, about having to change their breast implants every 10 years. The comment or question is usually worded in such a way that they have the understanding that breast implants need to be changed every 10 years. This just isn’t true.
I don’t know where this misconception came from, if some surgeons perpetuate it as a way to make more money, or if it is just perpetuated by the Internet. Breast implants are very durable, and designed to last for many years if properly inserted. We have sample breast implants in our office, that are no worse for the wear, after being squeezed and stretched for many years by patients; and there are numerous videos online that show breast implants being run over by cars, drop from buildings, and subjected to other stresses. And clinical studies would show that the failure rate of all breast implants at 10 years averages approximately 10% (a failure rate of 1% per year over the first 10 years). That means that 10 years after surgery, the vast majority of breast implants are still intact and functioning well. And just to give another perspective, the earliest I have removed a saline breast implant for failure is two years, but I have also removed a saline breast implant that was 33 years old when it failed.
All three manufacturers (Allergan, Mentor, and Sientra) will provide a replacement (at no cost) for any breast implant that has failed. If a woman decides to change her breast implants prior to any type of failure, she will need to purchase a new set of implants. Replacing breast implants requires a surgical procedure. The extent of a breast implant replacement surgery depends upon why the implants are being replaced, and the presence of other problems or concerns (if any) that may be present at the same time. All surgical procedures carry some risk. So even in a simple replacement surgery there are (minor) risks… But those risks are real and need to be considered carefully in the decision making process.
All three breast implant manufacturers offer warranties for their implants. There are minor differences, but for the most part they are very similar. The manufacturers are very good about standing behind their products, and they will provide a free replacement for any breast implant that has failed. Saline and silicone breast implant warranties may differ slightly. The base warranty covers any failure and provides some financial assistance to help defer the cost of replacement surgery up to five years after the initial insertion. An extended warranty, which can usually be purchased for a nominal fee, increases this time to 10 years. The warranty will usually allow replacement of the contralateral (non-failed side) implant as well. And manufactures now provide replacement implants in the event of Baker Grade III or IV capsular contracture.
Following the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, my comment to patients about the need for changing breast implants at 10 years is the following — if a woman is happy, and is not having any problems with her implants, then there is no need to change her breast implants at 10 years.