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Breast implant risks

We want to make sure you understand there are a number of breast implant risks. As with any surgery the importance of having a highly exeperienced medical team and high quality facility is critical, especially if a complication does occur.

Please read the latest FDA info on breast implant risks

General risks

The risks in this group occur in any surgery.

  • Infection: A small infection is ususally treated with an antibiotic ointment. Deeper infections are treated with prescription antibiotics. Development of an abscess (pus that has collected and formed into a pocket) usually requires drainage.
  • Hematoma: A collection of blood outside a blood vessel caused by a leak, injury, or surgery. May require removal by suction, drainage, or an additional surgical procedure.
  • Large or depressed scars: Abnormal scars sometimes occur despite the use of the most modern techniques. May require injection of steroids, placement of silicon sheeting onto the scars, and sometimes an additional cosmetic surgery.
  • Allergy to wound dressings: You may be allergic to ointments, soaps, tapes, or sutures used during and after surgery. Usually this is a mild problem and can be easily treated. Rarely allergic reaction can be severe and require agressive treatment, including hospitalization.
  • Wound separation: Any surgical incision may separate instead of healing quickly. This may be caused by infection, decreased circulation (smokers are at a higher risk), or external pressure on the wound. Additional cosmetic surgery may be needed.
  • Injury to other structures: Any surgical incision may result in injury to nerves, blood vessels and muscles.
  • Rare but lifethreatening complications: Heart attack, pulmonary embolism (blood clot from another part of the body that travels to the lungs), cardiac arrhythmia, hyperthermia, severe allergic reaction to medications.

Specific risks

The risks in this group are specific to the breast enlargement surgery.

  • Capsular contraction: Hardening of the tissue surrounding the breast. The most common complication and probably the best known of breast implant risks. This is not really a health risk but may be painful and distorts the appearance of the implanted breast. Additional cosmetic surgery may be required to correct the problem.
  • Loss of sensitivity in the breast and nipple area: This happens when nerves that are responsible for skin or nipple sensation are damaged during the surgery. The recovery is slow, takes up to two years and in about 15% of the cases never occurs.
  • Exposure: In rare cases erosion of an implant through the skin or scar may occur. This complication may be caused by thin skin, inadequate tissue coverage, or infection. Most likely the implant will need to be temporarily removed.
  • Wrinkling: Visible or palpable wrinkling under the skin. The problem sometimes disappears after a year. Usually seen in women with thin skin and insufficient tissue coverage
  • Deflation: This happens when the shell covering implant fails. The implant will need to be replaced in a secondary surgery.
  • Calcium deposits around the implant: Not a health risk by itself but reduces detectability of breast cancer
  • Loss of skin, nipple, or breast tissue: This is a very rare complication of severe infections.
  • Interference with cancer screening: The presence of breast implants may reduce the sensitivity of mammography. Please make sure to alert the technician to the fact that you have breast implants. Special radiographic techniques including manual displacement of the implant and extra views may be required. This is one of very serious and less known breast enlargement risks.
  • Loss of cleavage: Breasts may join together across the midline. This happens when the skin over sternum pulls away from the bone. Reduced strength in the subcutaneous tissues and oversized implants are the contributing factors. Additional cosmetic surgery will be required.
  • Bottoming out: This happens when the implant moves downward forcing the bottom crease lower on the chest. The problem is more likely to occur in women with too heavy implants, thin subcutaneous tissues, and weak dermis. Additional cosmetic surgery may be required.
  • Need for revisional surgery: Breast enhancement cannot be expected to be a one time surgery and you are likely to have additional one or more cosmetic surgeries over the course of your life. Each surgery comes with the breast implant risks listed above. The number of additional surgeries can be reduced by matching your individual soft tissue characteristics to the characteristics of your implants.

This list of breast implant risks given above is long but most likely not complete. Again, please make sure to visit the FDA site for latest information.

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