Breast Implant Failure Rate

Wow!  It has been a long time since I contributed to this blog and lots of stuff has happened in the world of plastic surgery during the intervening time.  Hopefully, now that the holidays and major medical meetings are out of the way as well as taxes, I can get back into the habit of updating the information on this site more frequently.

I thought I would start off with an update on the failure rate of breast implants since this continues to be one of most commonly asked questions in my practice.  There are all sorts of rumors on the internet about implants and their durability.  My personal favorite is that a woman needs to exchange and replace her breast implants every ten years no matter if the breast implants are intact or have failed.  I call this the “tire rotation” rumor-you have to rotate your car’s tires every so many miles, so why not your implants?

I have always thought it a better idea of actually looking at the data and the science before making some bold, all-encompassing statement about any subject but many others find it easier to make the statement as if it were “fact” rather than look at the data and then reach a conclusion.  This is the same type of pseudoscience that kept humans believing that the universe, the sun, and all of the planets rotated around the earth for centuries.  Those who opposed these views were chastised, belittled or worse but eventually, the sheer volume of the data made it impossible for the reality of our world’s place in the universe to remain hidden.

So, what is the reality about the longevity of saline-filled breast implants?  A just published study by Patricia S. Walker M.D. et al in Aesthetic Surgery Journal looks at the failure rate of the Natrelle Saline-filled breast implants in a prospective study format-this means that the participants were enrolled in the study before they had their breast implants placed.  There were 876 breast augmentation and 194 breast reconstruction patients enrolled in this study.  Ten-years after their surgeries these patients were surveyed regarding their implant failure rates and also their degree of satisfaction with their breast implant surgery results.  91% of the breast augmentation patients and 86% of the breast reconstruction patients responded to the follow-up survey.  At the end of ten-years, 90% of the saline-filled implants were intact.  The long-term patient satisfaction rate was 87.5% for breast augmentation patients and 86.3% for breast reconstruction patients.

This study again supports the durability of breast implants.  Sadly, if all the patients in this study had followed the myths and rumors, 90% of these women would have been subjected to unnecessary surgery and undue risks.  To paraphrase the FDA, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!  The persistent myths and misinformation about the failure rates of breast implants continues to cause undue worry and anxiety for patients and causes some women to avoid correcting their dissatisfaction with their breasts.  If only we followed what Galileo knew- let science guide our decisions and our statements.

Herluf Lund MD

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